Misstep in Re-election Filings May Fell House Veteran Conyers
DETROIT — For nearly 50 years, John Conyers Jr. has represented Detroit in the House of Representatives. He is the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, a founder of the Congressional Black Caucus and the second-longest-serving member of Congress still holding office.But now he may be felled by a political mistake fit for an amateur: His petitions for re-election lack enough valid signatures.
The misstep has left politicians and constituents amazed. After all, at this point in his career, Mr. Conyers should be a shoo-in, his campaign machine fine-tuned. He first took office in 1965 during the auto industry’s boom years, long before towering debt and municipal bankruptcy took hold. Many here cannot recall when they were last represented by someone else.
“I just don’t understand how this happened to him,” said Leslie Coleman, a 57-year-old retired Detroit resident, as he walked down Michigan Avenue on Tuesday. “He’s been such a good congressman all this time. And then to make a mistake like this doesn’t make any sense.”
Yet the Conyers campaign, in a preliminary finding last week by the Wayne County clerk, apparently failed to meet a requirement that is far from onerous. Facing an August primary election in a bid for his 26th term, Mr. Conyers, who represents the 13th District, did not gather the required 1,000 valid signatures, partly because some of the campaign workers were not personally registered to vote, as required by Michigan law.
On Tuesday, it became official.
It “is my determination that in accordance with the current laws and statutes of the State of Michigan, the nominating petitions filed by Congressman John Conyers Jr. are insufficient” to allow Mr. Conyers’s name on the ballot, the official, Cathy Garrett, the county clerk, said in a statement on Tuesday. “Although I am not the final arbiter, I eagerly await the courts’ review of the constitutionality of the laws and statutes pertaining to petition circulators.”
The ruling has now set off a legal and political storm. Mr. Conyers, who turns 85 on Friday, has three days to appeal the decision to the Michigan secretary of state. He has until June 6 to get on the ballot.
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