Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Departure of congressional veteran sets up possible Conyers v. Conyers contest

It could be Conyers versus Conyers — plus a host of other Democratic candidates — in the race to succeed U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit, who announced his retirement Tuesday.
State Sen. Ian Conyers, D-Detroit, a great nephew of John Conyers, pre-empted Tuesday's highly anticipated radio announcement by telling the New York Times that Conyers would announce his retirement —- not his resignation — and that he would be a candidate to replace him.
But in announcing what he described as his immediate retirement on Detroit radio Tuesday, John Conyers said he was endorsing his 27-year-old son, John Conyers III, to replace him.
"I didn't expect him to make an endorsement," Ian Conyers, reached by telephone in Israel, told the Free Press shortly after the announcement.
Ian Conyers' announcement drew a heated response from John Conyers' wife, Monica.
"Please know that I don't like opportunist (sic) or disrespect," she wrote on her Facebook page. "How can you make an announcement before he retires? One, you did not consult with our family before you made such an announcement. Ian Conyers is not endorsed by the Congressman. Nor is he authorized to make any statements or comments on behalf of him nor has he called or come to this hospital!!!! Period. smh"
Ian Conyers hadn't claimed an endorsement from his great uncle, but said on social media that he'd spoken with the congressman by phone Thursday and he advised him to run.
Ian Conyers said he encourages the media to "do a thorough vetting of all candidates," and he would definitely be running.
“What you witnessed is a family in disarray,” said Detroit political consultant Steve Hood. “You have the potential for two Conyers to go for the seat.”
Hood said not much is known about John Conyers III, who has never run for political office and could not immediately be reached for comment.
The Facebook page of John Conyers III says he is a managing partner at EIA Alpha Partners Fund Management and an owner/partner at a firm called Palette Agency. It says he attended Detroit Renaissance High School and studied at Morehouse College and New York University. 

Father's car

In 2010, John Conyers said he would reimburse the federal government for nonofficial use of his congressional vehicle by his son. That happened after the younger John Conyers told Detroit police someone stole two laptop computers and 1,000 concert tickets from the 2010 Cadillac Escalade after he parked it near Brush and Congress in downtown Detroit about midnight Nov. 24.
"I have just learned about the inappropriate use of a congressional vehicle by my son over the Thanksgiving holiday," Conyers said in a statement. "I am sorry it happened and will make sure that it does not happen again."
Police records showed the son had earlier been stopped for speeding in the same burgundy SUV.
John Conyers III, then 20, had worked in a $15-an-hour part-time job for his mother, Monica Conyers, a Detroit City Councilwoman, before she pleaded guilty to federal bribery charges.
Ian Conyers, 29, won a special election in 2016 to fill the seat vacated by state Sen. Virgil Smith, who resigned following a domestic violence scandal.
Ian Conyers has a master's degree in urban and regional planning from Georgetown University, according to information he provided to the Free Press in response to a pre-election questionnaire.
Ian Conyers has sponsored bills related to education, recreation, economic development and job training, among other issues. None have become law, which is not unusual for a first-term senator serving in the minority party.
Radio host Mildred Gaddis, who hosted John Conyers for the announcement, said Ian Conyers made "a major mistake" by pre-empting his great uncle.
"Nobody ever steps out like that in a scenario like this without talking to the family," she said. "To step out like that without consulting with some of the stakeholders in the community, it wasn’t a mature move."
Political consultant Adolph Mongo said name recognition is important in elections and all Detroiters will recognize the Conyers name, but that doesn't guarantee either man a victory.
"The brand ain't what it used to be," Mongo said.

Family controversy

The Conyers family has endured its share of controversy.
In 2009, Monica Conyers pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. She acknowledged using her role as a Detroit City Council member and a trustee of the city's pension funds to take bribes from city vendors.
She served 37 months in a federal prison for the crime.
In 2015, Monica Conyers filed for divorce from John Conyers, her husband of 25 years, citing a breakdown in marital relations. John Conyers agreed that the marriage had broken down. The couple insisted there was "zero animosity" between them.
The divorce never went through and a year later, the pair renewed their wedding vows.
"Life is complicated and (the couple is) no different than any other family," Monica Conyers' divorce lawyer, Daniel Findling, told the Free Press at the time.
In recent days, John Conyers III spoke publicly in his father's defense when the media descended on the family's Detroit home in the wake of several former employees accusing his father of sexual harassment.
Other possible candidates for Conyers' seat include Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon, former state House Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Detroit City Councilwoman Brenda Jones, and state Sens. David Knezek and Coleman Young.
Also mentioned as a possibility? Monica Conyers.
Hood said he does not expect she will run.

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