With Dingell retiring at the end of this term after serving almost 59 years in Congress*, his fellow Michigan representative in the 13th District John Conyers is poised to become the longest serving member of the House. Actually, he would be poised to do so–if he can get on the ballot. Yes, a Congressman seeking his 26th term might see his career end in one of the, well, stupidest possible ways. Michigan law requires that you have just 1,000 possible signatures to get on the ballot for a primary election. Conyers has…592. I kid you not. From the Detroit Free Press:
Conyers turned in 2,000 signatures on April 18. State law says that Conyers needs at least 1,000 valid signatures and they must come from and be gathered by registered voters.
The initial review showed 1,193 valid signatures. A second review showed 1,236 valid signatures. with 764 of the initial 2,000 signatures thrown out for a variety of reasons, including: petition signers not being registered to vote or not residents of 13th district, a signature being improperly dated or having a bad address.
But Garrett got reports from clerks in Detroit, Hamtramck and Ecorse that showed only five of eight circulators challenged by Conyers’ Democratic opponent, Rev. Horace Sheffield, were properly registered to vote, a requirement under state law. With that, the 644 signatures that those people collected were ruled invalid, leaving Conyers with only 592 valid signatures.
You’d think after 25 tries, Conyers would kind of have this thing down.** If this ruling from the Wayne County Clerk is upheld, Conyers would be denied a place on the August 5 primary ballot, meaning he could only run as a write-in candidate. His opponent, Rev. Horace Sheffield, would go from a long shot to a definite contender to win Conyers’ seat. Unsurprisingly Conyers has assembled a legal team to challenge this ruling, but they still have to get all of this done in time for the primary election, which isn’t a certainty.
My prediction is that Conyers will still be in Congress next year. The Democrats have no issue with bending the rules a bit in districts where they control things, and if they can get Torricelli
on off the ballot [and replaced by the elderly Frank Lautenberg], then I think they can get Conyers on it, too, especially given the comparable level of corruption in the his Detroit-based district. For more reading on why he might be allowed to return, this article outlines the potential legal issues facing Sheffield’s challenges, should they go before the courts.
But hey, it’ll be fun to watch while it lasts, I suppose.
*=He assumed office on December 13, 1955, after winning a special election to replace his father, John Dingell, Sr., who had passed away. He has served 29 full terms since then.
**=And if this news is the ice cream sundae, then the cherry on top must surely be that one of Conyers’ circulators was a fugitive. Of course, given the Democrats opposition to measures to protect your voting rights like voter ID laws, this shouldn’t be a surprise.