Judge Mathis decides against Congress run

Leonard N. Fleming

TV celebrity Judge Greg Mathis, who flirted with the idea of running for former longtime U.S. Congressman John Conyers’ seat, said Friday he’s not giving up his day job.

In a statement, the 57-year-old Mathis said although he was “asked to consider a run for the vacant congressional seat here in Michigan,” he won’t dive into the 13th District race expected to feature a crowded field of candidates including relatives of the embattled 88-year-old Conyers who resigned Dec. 5.

“I am both grateful and humbled by the level of interest in my candidacy. I appreciate hearing from Detroiters and others in Michigan that have encouraged me to run for elected office,” the statement read.

“The fact is, we have strong elected leaders in Detroit. I have faith that the voters in the 13th Congressional District will elect a leader that is committed to giving our citizens the tools they need to succeed. That they will elect someone committed to fighting for equal economic opportunity for all. Someone committed to true social justice, perhaps one of the two aforementioned public officials whom we’ve worked with at the Mathis Community Center.”

But Mathis also said, “I cannot fully rule out a future in public service.”

The courtroom show “Judge Mathis” has been on the air since 1999 and is produced in Chicago. Last year was the show’s 19th season.

The seat held for almost 53 years by Conyers opened a month ago when he “retired” in the wake of allegations by former female staffers that he harassed them. The longtime congressman professed his innocence but decided not to seek re-election amid health concerns.

If Mathis had jumped in, he would have joined a field that included declared Democratic candidates such as state Sen. Ian Conyers of Detroit, Rep. Conyers’ 29-year-old great nephew who angered his family by announcing his intention to run for Congress just before the ex-congressman announced his resignation. Another candidate is state Sen. Coleman Young II, who last year lost to Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and is term-limited out of the Senate at year’s end.

Mathis is always visible in his native Detroit and has been mulling a run for office for years. He has considered a run for mayor in the past.

His political pedigree is strong: He is a former staffer for the late Detroit City Council member Clyde Cleveland and worked for the late Mayor Coleman Young. He was also close to the late Detroit City Councilwoman Brenda Scott.

After troubles with crime as a youth, Mathis turned his life around and became a lawyer and then a judge in 1995 for the state’s 36th District court. He was, at the time, the youngest person in Michigan to hold the post.

His namesake Mathis Community Center, which mentors children and young adults as well as offers employment counseling and job placement for ex-offenders, has been open for 18 years.

“I grew up in Detroit as a troubled youth in a community with broken and underfunded schools, poverty, where I witnessed the dumping of drugs and guns, which in turn has lead to mass incarceration,” Mathis said in his statement. “My youth and my upbringing inspired my career in public service.”

Given his community service and reach to help the underprivileged in Detroit, city officials named one of its streets for him, Mathis Avenue.


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