Judge Orders Conyers on Primary Ballot (Updated)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Posted May 23, 2014 at 12:53pm

Updated 4:47 p.m. | A federal judge has ruled that 25-term Democratic Rep. John Conyers Jr. shall appear on his party’s Aug. 5 primary ballot.  

A U.S. district judge in the Eastern District of Michigan decided Friday to grant an injunction ordering the state to put him on the ballot.  

Earlier Friday, Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson had ruled the longtime lawmaker ineligible, according to The Detroit News. “As Secretary Johnson implicitly acknowledged in her ruling today, if the signatures excluded pursuant to the Registration Statute may not be excluded from Mr. Conyers’ total — and this Court holds that they may not be — then Mr. Conyers has enough signatures to qualify for placement on the ballot,” Judge Matthew F. Leitman wrote. “He shall be placed on the ballot.” (The full opinion is here. )  

Leitman was nominated to the federal bench last year by President Barack Obama. He was confirmed in March 2014.  

A local county clerk had previously decided Conyers, 85, was ineligible . The secretary of State decision on Friday was the result of a Conyers campaign appeal.  

But the Conyers campaign had also appealed to federal court on the constitutionality of the state’s law requiring campaigns’ petition circulators be registered voters. That’s what tripped up the longtime lawmaker’s bid. Until recent weeks, Conyers’ re-election was assumed inevitable. But last week, two of Conyers’ petition signature gatherers were found to not be registered voters and any signatures they collected were ruled invalid. Consequently, Conyers did not meet the 1,000-signature threshold to appear on the ballot.  

The Democratic National Committee issued statements last week from Obama and DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., reiterating their support for Conyers’ 2014 re-election.  

Had he not gotten onto the ballot, Conyers’ two best options for re-election would likely include running as a write-in candidate in the primary or as an independent in the general. The judge’s ruling is bad news for the Democratic rival who initiated the investigation, the Rev. Horace Sheffield.  

The race is rated Safe Democratic by Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.