The Detroit Free Press must have figured, since newspaper endorsements don’t matter much these days, they might as well make them fun to read. And, this one’s a doozy.
A quick electoral scene-setting: The 82-year-old Conyers is running in Michigan’s 13th Congressional District, and faces an Aug. 7 primary against three other Democrats after running unopposed in 2010. He currently represents the 14th District, but the redistricting map signed by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder formed a less hospitable (though still majority-minority) 14th, and Conyers and freshman Rep. Hansen Clarke agreed to switch districts to better both their shots at retention. The new map faced complaints from civil-rights groups, but was approved by the Department of Justice. Detroit’s population loss since the last census led to new districts that encompass parts of Detroit plus its outlying suburbs.
The Free Press endorses Conyers so grudgingly as to demand more adverbial flourish than my vocabulary offers:
[H]is energy has slowed and he is not delivering for his district the way he used to, or the way he should be.
Then there is the matter of his wife, Monica, who’s serving a federal prison sentence for shaking down vendors when she was a member of the Detroit City Council; implausibly, the congressman swears he knew nothing of the conspiracy she pled guilty to taking part in.
But elections are about finite choices, and while all of Conyers’ Democratic opponents are competent, none offers sufficient support for turning out a congressman of his seniority and influence.
JOHN CONYERS gets our endorsement, but it is mostly with the hope that he will soon retire from Congress and the district will produce a more viable alternative…
This may be the last time this newspaper can back him, but for now, Conyers is the best alternative.
The press has generally treated the redistricting Conyers faces with a slightly sad, wistful tone, as if it’s an affront to his years of service to require him to actually engage in the political process. It is not. As a 24-term incumbent, he has plenty of advantages and should be plenty good at running for office by now. I doubt I’d be interested in any of his challengers, either, but they have every right to offer the Detroit area a change of leadership.
From the Free Press endorsement, his challenger state representative Shannelle Jackson sounds pretty reasonable:
State Rep. Shanelle Jackson is also a strong contender, an up-and-coming Detroit legislator who appears to have learned much in her short time in Lansing. Jackson also has respectable legislative victories, and, just as important, she’s doing her homework on policy issues.
Despite her strong ties to union backing, she says promised public benefits and retirement packages are likely unsustainable. She is also open to tweaks on the benefit sides of Medicare and Social Security that could save big money but won’t impact recipients too dramatically.
And, since so much of Conyers’ pitch relies on delivering for his district (certainly not constitutional scholarship), here’s a reminder of what that district looks like these days. This sad, arresting video was shot by a filmmaker flying a tiny drone over the city: