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The race to replace John Conyers is both crowded and wide-open

Rashida Tlaib
Rashida Tlaib for Congress
via Facebook

When Congressman John Conyers was forced to step down last December in the wake of multiple sexual harassment allegations, some political observers predicted there would be a crowd vying to replace him.

They were right.

Already, seven people have announced they’re exploring bids to fill Conyers’ seat in Michigan’s 13th Congressional district, which includes a large chunk of Detroit and some surrounding suburbs.

They include two people named Conyers: 27-year-old son John Conyers III (who former Rep. Conyers has already endorsed to succeed him), and great-nephew and Detroit State Sen. Ian Conyers.

State Sen. Coleman Young II, who ran a losing campaign to unseat Mike Duggan as Detroit mayor just last year, has also announced he’s running.

So has Detroit attorney and activist Michael Gilmore, who’s filed a lawsuit challenging the timing of the “special election” to replace Conyers (Gov. Snyder, citing local cost concerns, scheduled it to coincide with regularly-scheduled August and November elections, sparking some criticism about the amount of time that leaves the seat unfilled).

Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones joined the race late last month, earning Duggan’s endorsement this week.

And two more people jumped into the race just this past week: Detroit State Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo, and former Detroit State Rep. Rashida Tlaib.

Gay-Dagnogo was one of Conyers’ fiercest defenders when he was under pressure to step down. Now, the former Detroit educator says she would continue to fight what she calls the “dismantling of our schools” in Washington, and build on Conyers’ legacy championing civil and voting rights.

Credit City of Detroit
City of Detroit
Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones is also seeking to replace Conyers.

“It seems like in our leadership today, most people are looking for an opportunity to run instead of serving. To run, instead of fighting,” Gay-Dagnogo said in a video announcing her candidacy. “I don’t care what capacity I’m in, I’m willing to fight.”

Tlaib, who’s worked as a public interest and civil rights lawyer since narrowly losing a State Senate race in 2014, announced her run on Tuesday, promising to run “the most aggressive grassroots campaign plan Michigan has ever seen.”

“You will never wonder where I stand on an issue or if I am going to show up when needed,” Tlaib wrote in a statement. “I will be there, side by side with you, as we fight back against Trump and his thugs and their un-American agenda that puts the interests of the rich over the interests of the people who make up the backbone of this country.”

If elected, Tlaib would become the first Muslim to represent Michigan in Congress.

The crowded nature of the field, and the high number of candidates with widespread name recognition, ironically means the race itself to replace Conyers is wide open.

All seven of the candidates who’ve announced runs so far are Democrats. The 13th district is historically strongly Democratic, so the winner of that party’s August primary is usually almost guaranteed a win in November.

Candidates have until April 24th to file ballot petitions for the August primary.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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