Meijer heir prepares Amash primary challenge

Amash and Meijer
Justin Amash (left) and Peter Meijer (right)

The increasingly crowded field of challengers to U.S. Rep. Justin Amash (R-Cascade Twp.) is likely to grow and could soon include one of Michigan’s most famous names. 

Peter Meijer, 31, a scion of the billionaire Meijer family that owns one of the largest retail chains in the Midwest, told the Advance on Friday afternoon that he is being encouraged to mount his own primary bid in the Grand Rapids-anchored 3rd Congressional District and will make a formal announcement “shortly.” 

Meijer | Wikimedia Commons

Meijer declined to discuss specific policy positions at this time and wouldn’t identify who he’s been speaking with about running, but he made it clear that he intends to use his deep West Michigan roots to his advantage. 

“I care deeply about West Michigan. This is where I was born and raised and I think the greatest place I’ve known,” Meijer said in a Friday afternoon phone interview. “I want to look out for it and make sure we can do everything to ensure West Michigan remains prosperous and a wonderful community.”

Meijer, an Army veteran who served in Iraq and said he did civilian humanitarian work in Afghanistan, has no formal role in the Meijer business. The fourth-generation family-owned company based in Walker operates almost 200 grocery and general merchandise stores in multiple states around the Midwest. 

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“My family’s company is something that I’m very proud of. I have no direct role in the company, apart from stocking shelves and chasing down carts in the parking lot during summer jobs in high school,” said Meijer. 

“I don’t have an official role,” he continued. “Whatever the outcome [of the election, I hope] the people of West Michigan will have a chance to know me for who I am and for my accomplishments rather than just my association with the family business that I’m very proud of, but which I don’t actively contribute towards.”

The Meijer family has been ranked as Michigan’s wealthiest, with an estimated net worth of more than $7 billion in 2017. 

Meijer also told the Advance that given his likely entrance into politics, he’s stepped away from a political action committee he helped start that helps military veterans get elected. 

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Should he decide to jump in the primary challenge pool against Amash, he’d be joining at least three other declared GOP candidates: state Reps. Lynn Afendoulis (R-Grand Rapids Twp.) and Jim Lower (R-Greenville) and former Sand Lake Village Trustee Tom Norton.

The primary challenges emerged after Amash came out as the only GOP member of Congress to call for the impeachment of President Donald Trump. 

U.S. Rep. Justin Amash town hall in Grand Rapids, March 18, 2019 | Nick Manes

Richard Czuba, a veteran Michigan political pollster who founded the Glengariff Group, said that the number of people throwing their hat in the race to take down Amash is only likely to help the fifth-term incumbent. 

“We have no polling data on this [race] … but just as a rule if you’re an incumbent it is far more likely to topple someone with one candidate than a divided field,” Czuba said on Friday afternoon. 

“That’s because people who are going to vote against Justin Amash are going to start splintering, rather than be united,” he said. “I think it’s to [Amash’s] advantage to have multiple candidates in the field with him already having developed a base of support.”

Meijer, for his part, noted that the primary election for the contested House seat is more than a year away and he’s unfazed by the other candidates. 

“I think we’re a very long ways away from the … primary,” Meijer said. “Anything can happen between now and then.”

Nick Manes
Nick Manes covers West Michigan, business and labor, health care and the safety net. He previously spent six years as a reporter at MiBiz covering commercial real estate, economic development and all manner of public policy at the local and state levels. His byline also has appeared in Route Fifty and The Daily Beast. When not reporting around the state or furiously tweeting, he enjoys spending time with his girlfriend, Krista, biking around his hometown of Grand Rapids and torturing himself rooting for the Detroit Lions.

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