Rep. John Conyers (D-Michigan) has been a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for so long that he sometimes forgets whether he’s served 23 or 24 terms. Now there’s a possibility that the second-most senior member of the House won’t return for a 25th term due in large part to his state’s redistricting plan.
Based on the new lines, Conyers would lose many of his current constituents in Highland Park and west Detroit and gain hundreds of thousands of new, wealthier voters in Oakland County and the Grosse Pointes. In addition, he and Rep. Hansen Clarke would inherit many of each other’s constituents, which means the freshman Democrat has a redistricting problem, too.
Rumors have been circulating that the two Black lawmakers may switch districts. The two told BET.com that they’ve agreed to not discuss the matter until Gov. Rick Snyder has approved the new map, which also packs a significant portion of the state’s minority voters in their two districts.
“I must congratulate the Republican gerrymanderers because they got Clarke and myself almost up to the 60 percent [majority-minority] threshold,” he said. “They were very clever in the way they did it.”
But that’s not the 82-year-old lawmaker’s only problem. State Sen. Bert Johnson has announced that he plans to challenge Conyers in the redrawn district, which he says he can represent better.
“This for me is about advocating for people who’ve indicated they believe there is a void and that void needs to be filled,” the African-American lawmaker told The Detroit News. “I have great respect and admiration for Congressman Conyers and what he’s contributed to Detroit and to the country.”
Other contenders may line up behind Johnson, which means that Conyers will have to campaign hard and raise some serious money, which he hasn’t had to do for years. The timing of all of this isn’t great either. His wife, Monica, is serving time in prison after pleading guilty to federal bribery charges and there have been news reports that Detroit properties owned by the couple are in disrepair.
When asked whether he can win in the new district, Conyers said, “I felt like I could win before I ever won” his first election. Time will tell whether voters share his confidence or think it’s time for him to move on.
(Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)
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