A New Round of Special Elections

Michigan Rep. John Conyers (Facebook)

Michigan Rep. John Conyers (Facebook)

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 8, 2017 — Last week, it was erroneously reported in the New York Daily News and several other publications and tweets that embattled Michigan Rep. John Conyers (D-Detroit) had announced he would not seek re-election next year, but the story proved premature.

Congress’ most senior member actually took things a step further on Tuesday. Not only will he not seek another term in office, but the Dean of the House, and the only member originally elected in the 1960s, resigned his seat effective immediately. The sexual harassment allegations that seem to be growing by the day, in the end, proved too much for Conyers to contain and remain in office.

The congressman’s mid-term departure after more than 53 years in office will lead to a new special election for Michigan’s 13th District, a seat fully contained in Wayne County that encompasses a large portion of the city of Detroit, including part of the downtown area. The district then swings south to include the River Rouge and Midtown communities before swerving west to annex Brightmoor, Warrendale, Westland, and Romulus, the latter town being adjacent to the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County airport. The majority black district is 55 percent African American and 38 percent Anglo. No other race or ethnicity tops 10 percent of the district population.

The special election, which Gov. Rick Snyder (R) will likely call for some time in the first quarter of next year, begins as a family affair. Upon exiting Congress, Conyers endorsed his son, John Conyers III, as his successor. Conyers III is currently a partner in a hedge fund investment company. Additionally, the now former congressman’s nephew, state Sen. Ian Conyers (D-Detroit), is also announcing his candidacy. Others will soon join the contest once the schedule and filing deadlines are determined. The eventual Democratic primary winner will claim the seat in the special general.

The Michigan seat will join PA-18 and OH-12 in the vacant category. Former Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pittsburgh) resigned his western Pennsylvania congressional seat in October for similar reasons to Rep. Conyers’, and this district will be filled in a March 13 special election. Ohio Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Galena/Franklin County), who is leaving the House to take a job in the private sector, will depart Congress before Jan. 31 at which time Gov. John Kasich (R) will schedule the special election to fill his upcoming vacancy.

After originally saying he would not resign, Rep. Conyers in the end bent to pressure from the media and the Democratic leadership, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who had been publicly calling upon him to resign.

This being the case, resignation speculation will now dog Reps. Ruben Kihuen (D-NV) and Joe Barton (R-TX). Both are involved in respective sexual-related flare-ups, leading to Pelosi and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) to also call for the Las Vegas area freshman to immediately leave office. Some in the Republican Party, including fellow Texas Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Midland), have also publicly called upon Barton to resign now, even though the Dean of the Lone Star State delegation has already announced he will not seek an 18th term in the House.

It remains to be seen whether these two positions, and possibly more to follow, will also be vacated and filled in special elections prior to the regular cycle schedule. Once the Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Ohio seats are filled, nine House districts will have gone to special election during the current congressional session.

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