Tossup: Race tightens in 3rd House District, long held by GOP

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — In a year full of political uncertainty, one West Michigan congressional race has become what appears to be a neck-and-neck battle.

The 3rd Congressional District, or the area that now comprises the 3rd, has been represented by Republicans for all but four years since Gerald R. Ford, who later became president, was elected to the seat in 1948.

Democrats hope to change that this year in an unusual election cycle with some unusual twists. After five terms, Republican-turned-independent Rep. Justin Amash of Grand Rapids chose not to run for reelection, leaving an open seat and what Democrats see as a generational opportunity.

“People aren’t just changing their party across Kent County. People are changing their hearts and minds. That’s why I raised my hand to run,” candidate Hillary Scholten, a Democrat, said.

A handful of Democrats initially declared they would run for the office but the others ultimately dropped out of the race, leaving Scholten unopposed in the primary. Republican Peter Meijer beat a field of five to become his party’s nominee.

“We got into this race close to 490 days ago back in July of 2019 and I would say the motivation hasn’t changed,” Meijer said. “It was to make sure that West Michigan has strong, stable and effective representation.”

The race has drawn national attention from Democrats and Republicans. Both candidates have been active and the television commercials for both camps flood into your home on a daily bases.

And it would appear the race is close. 

“We’re seeing it on the ground, anecdotally I hear about from folks every day and we’re seeing it in the polls as well. You know, our polls show us up by 2 (percentage points) and gaining, ” Scholten said.

Last week, the respected Cook Political Report moved the race from leaning Republican to a tossup.

“It’s a challenge to know what’s going on. Usually we rely on polls. You know, I have to rely on when I’m knocking on some of those doors what type of reaction we’re feeling. We’re feeling strong but obviously no candidate can take anything for granted,” Meijer said.

With Michigan seeing a huge number of absentee ballots, a contentious presidential race and a number of other influences from the pandemic to the controversy over a new U.S. Supreme Court justice, gauging any close race this year may be challenging.