Bert Johnson Bid Sets Up Likely Race Against John Conyers

Posted August 30, 2011 at 2:08pm

State Sen. Bert Johnson (D) announced Tuesday he will seek Michigan’s 13th House district seat, setting up a race against one of Congress’ longest-serving Members: Rep. John Conyers (D).

“I am in fact running as a candidate in the 13th Congressional district,” Johnson told Roll Call on Tuesday. “I am the only announced candidate. While I suspect the field will grow, I don’t know who it will include today.”

Conyers has not announced yet where he’ll run for re-election, but he’s widely expected to seek another term in the Detroit-based 13th district. The 24-term Democrat is a target this cycle because of his family’s legal issues and because the newly redrawn Congressional map dismantled his current House district.

Earlier this month, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) signed a new Congressional map into law that switched much of the Detroit territory represented by Conyers and freshman Rep. Hansen Clarke (D). Although Clarke lives in the 13th district and Conyers lives in the 14th district, much of the current territory each represents is in the other’s district.

Conyers’ spokeswoman told Roll Call on Tuesday the office was not commenting on Johnson’s announcement, but Michigan Democrats took it as a big hint earlier this month when Clarke announced that he would run in the redrawn 14th district.

“I haven’t seen a press release out of [Conyers] that says so, but that seems to be the common wisdom” that he’ll run in the 13th, said John Cavanagh, a nonpartisan Michigan pollster.

Conyers will likely also face questions about his family’s legal troubles. Earlier this year, his wife was sent to prison for bribery.

But Johnson has some legal issues of his own. When he was 19, Johnson was convicted of a felony for armed robbery and breaking and entering at the Oakland Hills Country Club. He served a 14-month jail sentence for the crime.

“I don’t think that whatever Mr. Conyers and his family may be dealing with is important in terms of policy,” Johnson said. “I don’t think my story will neutralize his or vice versa. I think folks will have to measure me or whoever else is in this election.”

In any case, Johnson likely won’t be the last candidate to announce his or her bid for the redrawn 13th district: Other Democrats have already expressed interest in running.