By Jim Ellis
Dec. 1 2017 — Succumbing to pressure from highly publicized sexual harassment allegations, Michigan Rep. John Conyers (D-Detroit) announced Wednesday night that he will not seek re-election next year.
Conyers, the Dean of the House and the last member of either congressional chamber originally elected in the 1960s, will retire after serving what will be 54 years as a US representative. Assuming Rep. Conyers completes the current term, he will serve longer in the House than all but one member in American history: fellow Detroit area former Congressman John Dingell (D-Dearborn) who was elected to 30 terms, spending just over 59 years in office.
Michigan’s 13th District that Conyers represents splits downtown Detroit with the adjacent 14th CD, before encompassing the River Rouge, Midtown, Brightmoor, and Westland communities, prior to annexing the Romulus area that includes the Detroit Metropolitan Airport. The 13th is solidly Democratic (Clinton: 78.8 percent; Obama ’12: 85.2 percent) and its population is 55 percent African American. Rep. Conyers has averaged 79.8 percent of the vote in the current district configuration, though only tallied 61 percent in the 2016 Democratic primary turning back a challenge from Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey.
We can expect a crowded Democratic primary in a seat that hasn’t been open for more than five decades. The Conyers retirement announcement allows plenty of time for potential candidates to make their decisions. The Michigan candidate filing deadline isn’t until April 24, in preparation for the Aug. 7 partisan primary. The eventual Democratic nominee will capture the seat next November.
With Conyers departing for the 2018 election, the national cycle will feature 38 open House seats, 25 in Republican districts and now 13 with departing Democratic incumbents. One, in Pennsylvania’s 18th District, will be decided in a March 13th special election to replace resigned Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pittsburgh).
A day after Illinois Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Chicago) announced he would not seek a 14th term in the House, the congressman is already reportedly exploring his next political move. Speculation is increasing that he may now enter the 2020 presidential election running on an immigration reform platform, emphasizing allowing more individuals to come to the United States and granting a path to citizenship for those who are in the country illegally.
But, it’s possible that Gutierrez may not be the only member of the Chicago congressional delegation to retire. Though candidate filing expires on Dec. 4, veteran Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Chicago) has yet to submit his re-election documents. Curiously, the congressman’s son, Flynn Rush, who earlier said he would run for a Chicago state House seat, has also not filed. This is increasing speculation that Rep. Rush may not seek a 14th term and will announce his retirement so late as to allow his son to enter the congressional race and face less opposition because others would run short of time to comply with Illinois ballot petition requirements.
Since the filing deadline is Monday, something will have to happen here in the next day or two.
Illinois’ 1st District encompasses most of South Chicago, before moving southwest, around and well past the city of Joliet. The population is exactly 50 percent African American and generally votes in the mid-70s for Democratic candidates. Rep. Rush has not been seriously challenged since he defeated then-state Sen. Barack Obama, who challenged him for re-nomination in the 2000 election. Rep. Rush defeated Obama 59-30 percent to secure the Democratic primary in that political contest 18 years ago, and of course before the future president would become a national figure.