John Conyers III plans to run for Congress as independent

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Detroit — John Conyers III is circulating petitions to appear on the November ballot as an independent candidate after being tossed from the Democratic primary in the race for his father's congressional seat.

John Conyers III, a Detroit Democrat, is running for his father's old seat in the 13th District

Conyers, 27, told The Detroit News Monday that being disqualified from the August Democratic primary is a "blessing in disguise." Candidates without a party affiliation have until July 19 to submit 3,000 qualifying signatures to make the November ballot, according to state rules.

The maneuver, Conyers III said, is smarter than waging a long-shot campaign as a write-in candidate and he won't be beholden to the Democratic leadership.

"This is a far better position. I can focus on campaigning from now until November," said Conyers, who began circulating petitions after finding out he wouldn't be part of the primary. "Other Democrats in the (primary) race can fight it out for one position."

The crowded 13th District Democratic primary to replace resigned Congressman John Conyers Jr., D-Detroit, for a full two-year term includes Conyers' great nephew, Ian Conyers, as well as former state Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Shanelle Jackson, Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones, state Sen. Coleman Young III and Westland Mayor Bill Wild.

Former Conyers' staffer, Kimberly Hill Knott, is running as a write-in candidate.

Conyers III's campaign plan comes after the Michigan Court of Appeals last month affirmed a Wayne County court's denial of Conyers' effort to restore his name to the ballot for the primary.

Attorneys for Conyers had asked the courts to restore his name to the Aug. 7 primary ballot after Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett disqualified him in May. Garrett concluded Conyers had submitted fewer than the 1,000 valid voter signatures required for the congressional ballot under state law.

Conyers said Monday there's no point pursuing the challenge any further. 

The elder Conyers stepped down in December amid allegations of sexual harassment by former staffers. On the same day, the congressman endorsed his son to succeed him.

Conyers, the oldest of the former congressman's two sons, said he spent his younger years attending union rallies alongside his father and knows the issues. 

"I'm not running on my father's legacy," Conyers III said. "I grew up doing this work. I spent my entire life in Congress, learning."