Rep. John Conyers of Detroit first won his seat in 1965 and has had clear sailing ever since. Maybe not this time. A contested primary will be held next Tuesday in Conyers' newly reconfigured district. Michigan lost one seat in the last census, and the Republican legislature re-drew the district to include portions of Detroit's suburbs.
Conyers is notable because he is the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee and was a prime sponsor of the
Crack Dealers Bonanza Act Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, which cut the sentences for crack cocaine offenses to make them more nearly equal to those given for powder cocaine. In June, the Supreme Court held that the FSA is retroactive, even though Congress itself never adopted a retroactivity provision.
An article in the Wall Street Journal suggests that, notwithstanding the new obstacles to Conyers, he is well positioned to retain the seat. This is in part because one of his primary challengers, state Sen. Bert Johnson, has had some difficulties of his own:
Mr. Johnson has had to deal with questions about a conviction for armed robbery 20 years ago, for which he served a brief prison sentence. He said the episode is part of a story of redemption. The Detroit Free Press, in an editorial reluctantly endorsing Mr. Conyers, said, "The sheer visuals of tossing Conyers, a civil rights legend, aside for a convicted felon would be close to indefensible."
On the other hand, Rep. Conyers has been dogged by questions about his wife, former Detroit City Council member Monica Conyers, who is serving a prison sentence after pleading guilty in 2009 to a bribery charge. Conyers says he knows nothing about it.
It's really, really hard to know whom to root for in this race.