Conyers family primary fight brewing in Mich.

The resignation of former Rep. John ConyersJohn James ConyersFormer impeachment managers clash over surveillance bill VA could lead way for nation on lower drug pricing The Hill’s 12:30 Report: Dems release first transcripts from impeachment probe witnesses MORE Jr. (D-Mich.) is expected to set off both a crowded Democratic primary and some internal Conyers family drama.

After resigning amid mounting sexual harassment allegations, Conyers endorsed his son John Conyers III to replace him.

But the 27-year-old political neophyte hasn’t confirmed that he’s running, and another member of the family is planning a separate bid. Conyers’s great-nephew, state Sen. Ian Conyers, 29, is mounting a bid of his own for the Detroit-area seat.

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Political observers in Michigan say Ian Conyers, who won a special election last year for his state Senate seat, would have the upper-hand over Conyers’s son if he decides to run and would be a strong candidate overall for the early August primary.

 

But with an almost yearlong vacancy and four months until the deadline for candidates to declare, the field is far from settled.

“You’ve had an artificial cap on people’s ambitions for at least 30 years,” said Joe DiSano, a Democratic strategist in Michigan. “And at least in the Detroit portion of this district, you’ve got current, term-limited and former lawmakers all salivating at the possibility of going to Congress.”

Conyers’s stunning fall has created a vacancy in the safe Democratic district that encompasses parts of Detroit and its surrounding suburbs. But the seat, which once included more of Detroit, has seen its demographics shift over the years. The once heavily black district is now only 56 percent African-American.

The 88-year-old former congressman’s endorsement of his son surprised many in Michigan politics, including Conyers III himself. He has said he hopes to decide by the start of next year.

Observers believe he’s likely to stay out of the race. Conyers III has no political experience, and his online bio says he currently works as a partner at a hedge fund.

If he does run, Conyers III will be immediately faced with negative headlines of his own.

He was arrested in February by Los Angeles police on suspicion of domestic violence, which he has denied. Prosecutors declined to charge him due to a lack of third-party witnesses.

In 2010, Conyers III was cited for speeding in his father’s government-leased Cadillac. The elder Conyers had to repay more than $5,000 to the U.S. Treasury over his son’s use of the car.

And a run from Conyers III could also spark a feud with his second cousin, who has already announced his bid.

Ian Conyers has reportedly “liked” Twitter links to a story about the Conyers III car flap. But the state senator has also tried to push back on any characterization of family tension, telling The Washington Post that his great uncle urged him to run in the days before he announced his resignation.

Ian Conyers, who worked as a regional field director for former President Obama in 2012, was still new on the political scene when he won a state Senate seat last year. But he’s expected to be better positioned than Conyers III.

“[Ian Conyers] is automatically in the best position to take advantage of the Conyers name and possibly win the nomination,” said Bill Ballenger, a former state GOP lawmaker who now runs the Ballenger Report news site.

But Ballenger sees the prospect of multiple Conyers family members on the ballot splitting up the vote.

“The more Conyers on the ballot, the better it is for everyone else,” he said.

With the Democratic field still in the early stages, some strategists in the state believe there’s plenty of time for other candidates without the Conyers name to mount a bid.

“The heir apparent to John Conyers is going to be earned, not given, to anyone, and I’m not even sure it’s going to be anyone in the Conyers family,” DiSano said.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) announced that the special election will be held on Nov. 6, 2018 — Election Day — with an April 24 filing deadline and Aug. 7 primaries. That means the 13th District will have two elections in November: one to fill the remainder of Conyers’s term, which ends on Dec. 31, 2018, and the other to serve out a two-year term starting on Jan. 1, 2019.

Conyers’s seat will be open for about 11 months, an unusually long time for a seat to remain vacant. Democrats have criticized Snyder’s move, since the party will be down one more vote in the House and many residents in Detroit won’t have a member of Congress.

In light of the long gap, the Democratic primary is expected to keep growing for the next several months. State Sen. Coleman Young II, the son of Detroit’s first black mayor and a failed mayoral candidate last year, is already running. So is Michael Gilmore, a Detroit attorney.

Other names that have been floated include state Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo, Westland Mayor William Wild, Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones, Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon and former U.S. Rep. Hansen Clarke, who represented the 13th District from 2011 to 2013.

While African-Americans make up more than half of the district, strategists say there’s a path for non-black candidates. Observers pointed out two other potential candidates they believe could mount a competitive campaign.

State Sen. David Knezek, a veteran of the Iraq War, won his legislative seat as a white candidate in a majority black district. And former state Rep. Rashida Tlaib, the first Muslim woman elected to the state legislature, could also be a contender.

“The key to this race is the candidate who can bridge the Detroit and suburban divide,” DiSano said, adding that he predicts up to a half-dozen strong candidates from Detroit to enter the race. “Then it becomes who can get a significant amount of votes out of Detroit, as well as in the suburbs.”

Despite his troubles in Washington, Conyers still has supporters in his district. And the Conyers name could still be a potent way for members of his family to stand out in a crowded primary field.

Some political strategists suggest that voters will be looking for a candidate who isn’t affiliated with the former congressman.

“I have heard time and time again from people in the political class — but also people who have nothing to do with politics — who are yearning for something new, and I think that will play a factor here,” DiSano said.

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