John Conyers of Detroit, who will be 85 tomorrow, is the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee. Although the Democrats are in the minority in that chamber, being the Ranking Member is an influential position (as Chuck Grassley proves daily in his counterpart position on the Senate Judiciary Committee).
But Rep. Conyers might not be there for long. Amazingly, he did not submit enough legal signatures to qualify for the ballot. He will probably conduct a write-in campaign, but the chances there are problematic. He could also decide that, at 85, enough of Washington is enough.
If Conyers ever failed to vote for a bad piece of legislation, I can't remember what it was. But I have three nice things to say about him. He's focused and energetic for his age; he's a gentleman, having always been gracious to me when I testified (inevitably against his position) before his Committee; and, as Chairman in the late 1980's, he instigated and presided over the impeachment of corrupt then-federal district judge Alcee Hastings, who, like Conyers, is African-American.
Of course, there were charges that Hastings was on the hook only because of racism. Conyers rose to disagree, in words we would do well to remember today: "The principle of equality requires that a black public official be held to the same standard that other public officials are held to....Just as race should never disqualify a person from office, race should never insulate a person from the consequences of wrongful conduct."