Washington — John Conyers III filed paperwork to run for his father’s seat in Congress on Wednesday, setting up a Conyers v. Conyers primary in which he would face his cousin, state Sen. Ian Conyers of Detroit.
Former U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr., the Detroit Democrat, resigned in early December amid allegations that he had sexually harassed female aides — claims he denied. When leaving, Conyers, 88, endorsed his eldest son to succeed him in the U.S. House.
At the time, Conyers III indicated the endorsement caught him by surprise and that he planned to make a decision by January after talking to members of the Detroit community.
Conyers III, a Democrat, is 27 years old and has never held elected office. He has described himself as a hedge fund manager and “multi-discipline consultant” who lives between Detroit and Los Angeles.
On the statement of candidacy filed with the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday, he listed his parents’ residence in Detroit as his address. The house is not in the 13th District but in the 14th Congressional District represented by Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield. Rules allow people to run for Congress from outside of a district.
Conyers III, who is a prolific tweeter, also appeared to abruptly delete his Twitter account on Wednesday.
“Let me go on record and say that I love my dad but I’m not him. So if I run, don’t just vote for me cause of him,” Conyers III tweeted last month.
“Vote because I actually believe and support us truly and I’m speaking up for us. If I run it’s not for legacy purposes, know that. And no, I’ve not made a decision.”
Conyers III is “a smart guy” but his past legal problems and public controversies could “be a big barrier for him to overcome for folks who actually write checks” that help candidates win office, said Jonathan Kinloch, chairman of the 13th Congressional District Democratic Party.
While he would enter the race with strong name identification, fundraising could be a “tough hurdle” for Conyers III, Kinloch said.
Kinloch said he also expects Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones and Detroit NAACP executive director Donnell White to run for the open congressional seat. Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon is unlikely to run, he said, citing personal discussions with Napoleon.
Conyers III's paperwork filing follows cousin Ian Conyers’ officially announcing his congressional campaign Friday in the aim to win his great-uncle’s long-time seat.
Ian Conyers, 29, was elected to the Michigan Senate in a special election in 2016 to fill the seat of former Sen. Virgil Smith Jr., who resigned amid a domestic violence scandal.
Also running are state Sen. Coleman Young II and Democratic activist Michael Gilmore, who has filed suit against Gov. Rick Snyder in protest of his setting the special election for the seat for November.
The 13th Congressional District includes portions of Detroit and its suburbs in Wayne County.
Conyers III last month denied accusations of domestic violence in February when he was arrested by Los Angeles police.
Prosecutors declined to charge Conyers III after an altercation with a woman he was dating at the time, citing a lack of third-party witnesses to corroborate her claims.
“That situation and the allegations against me are false,” Conyers III told The Detroit News last month.
The woman alleged that Conyers III “body slammed her on the bed and then on the floor, where he pinned her down and spit on her.” That allegedly happened after he looked through her laptop and accused her of cheating on him.
Conyers III called 911 after the altercation and told police the woman had pulled a knife on him, according to records from the L.A. County District Attorney’s office. He said he had disarmed her, and she was injured during the struggle.
The woman suffered a 1.5-centimeter “stab wound” to her inner lower bicep and received three stitches.
Conyers III declined to detail the incident with The News last month, referring to his comments to the New York Times that the woman’s claim that he stabbed her “makes no sense.” He apologized for his role in “escalating the altercation.”
Staff writer Jonathan Oosting contributed