LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Peter Meijer, a Republican who served one term in Congress before being ousted by voters following a vote to impeach then-President Donald Trump, announced Monday that he will run for an open U.S. Senate seat in Michigan.

Meijer joins a field of more than a dozen candidates vying for a seat that’s been held by Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow for more than two decades. Stabenow shocked many in the state in January by announcing her retirement, creating a wide open race in the battleground state.

“My wife and I prayed hard about this race and how we can best serve our state and our nation. We considered every aspect of the campaign, and are confident we have the best chance of taking back this seat for the Republicans and fighting hard for a conservative future,” Meijer said in a statement on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“We are in dark and uncertain times, but we have made it through worse. The challenges are great, but so is our country. If we are to see another great American century, we need leaders who aren’t afraid to be bold, will do the work, and can’t be bought.”

Meijer is an heir to a Midwestern grocery store empire. His name recognition and fundraising ability instantly make him a top candidate in one of the nation’s most competitive Senate races. He joins former U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers and former Detroit Police Chief James Craig in the Republican field, while the Democratic field has been led by U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin and includes actor Hill Harper.

Jason Thielman, the executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said in a statement Monday that Meijer “isn’t viable in a primary election, and there’s worry that if Meijer were nominated, the base would not be enthused in the general election.”

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Slotkin announced her intentions in February, but the Republican field had remained relatively empty until Rogers announced a campaign in September and Craig did so in October. Slotkin had nearly $4 million more in the bank than any other Senate candidate through September, according to campaign finance numbers released earlier this month.

Meijer, who is from Grand Rapids, is a former Army reserve officer who served in Iraq. He was seen as part of the next generation of Republican leaders when he was elected to the U.S. House in 2020 at only 32 years old. But a vote to impeach Trump just two weeks into Meijer’s first term made him an immediate target of Trump loyalists.

Meijer was among 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump in 2021 following the deadly mob siege of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. He would go on to lose reelection to a Trump-backed primary opponent in 2022 despite having a significant fundraising advantage.

Questions still linger about whether a moderate candidate who voted to impeach Trump can survive a Republican primary. Trump won Michigan in 2016, and his endorsed candidates have overwhelmingly won primaries before losing by wide margins in general elections.

If Meijer could get past the GOP primary, he likely would present a formidable challenge to the Democratic nominee. His surname is one of the most recognizable in the state, and his reputation as a moderate Republican could help in a state that’s trended Democratic in recent years.

Republicans have taken just one of Michigan’s last 15 Senate, races but the margin of victory for Democrats has shrunk every election since Democratic Sen. Carl Levin won reelection in 2008 by a 29% margin. Democratic Sen. Gary Peters won reelection over GOP challenger John James by less than 2% in 2020, the closest race in over two decades.

Aided in part by turmoil in the GOP, Democrats won decisive victories in 2022, taking control of both chambers of the state legislature for the first time in decades and maintaining control of the governor’s office. The party also won nearly every competitive U.S. House race in Michigan last year.

Defending the Michigan seat could prove crucial for Democrats in their effort to maintain the Senate, where the party holds a 51-49 majority and also faces tough headwinds as they defend seats in Republican-leaning states from West Virginia to Montana and Ohio.

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