Our Editorial: Cut Brenda Jones some slack
Elections really do have consequences, as has been proved time and again. For Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones, the fallout from winning an election may be worse than losing one.
Jones failed in one congressional election in last week's primary, but prevailed in another. Unfortunately for her, she lost the seat she wanted and won the one that puts her in a pickle.
Jones was a candidate in the Democratic primary for the 13th District congressional seat previously held by John Conyers. She lost to former state Rep. Rashida Tlaib.
Because Conyers resigned, voters also were asked in a simultaneous election to pick someone to fill out the final two months of his term. Jones entered that contest, too, and narrowly defeated Tlaib.
No Republican candidates filed in either race, so the general election in November is moot and both Tlaib and Jones are heading to Congress, the former for a two-year term and the latter for a few weeks between the election and the seating of the new Congress on Jan. 1.
But no one can say for sure if Jones can go to Washington without resigning her City Council seat, which runs for another three years.
Doing so would be a bad bargain for Jones. For much of the time she'll be a Congress member, the House will be on holiday recess. She might get to cast a few votes in the lame-duck session following the election, but that's about it.
State law is unclear on whether Jones can hold both seats at once, as is the city charter.
U.S. House rules would not preclude Jones from being seated, but she would have to get special approval from the House Ethics Committee.
That might be tricky, since Republicans control the chamber and aren't anxious to add another Democratic vote.
And House guidelines say that while the Constitution "does not prohibit House Members from simultaneously holding state or local office, the House has determined that 'a high state office is incompatible with congressional membership, due to the manifest inconsistency of the respective duties of the positions.'"
In other words, the House wouldn't want Jones the Congress member advocating for legislation that would benefit Jones the council president.
So it would seem the best way out of this conundrum is for Jones to resign her temporary congressional seat as soon as she's sworn in and forget she ever won it.
It doesn't need to become any more complicated than that. Neither the city corporation counsel nor the state attorney general should take the matter further, as long as Jones doesn't attempt to hang on to both posts.
The 13th District has been without congressional representation since Conyers stepped down last December. While that's not an ideal situation, and does cheat district residents, leaving the seat open for a few more weeks isn't going to make it much worse. Having an empty seat on the nine-member council might be more harmful to the Detroit portion of the district.
As for Jones, she really should have weighed the various scenarios before she entered her name in the special election.
The lesson here for political aspirants: Be careful what you run for. You just might win.