By Joel Thurtell
If Republican mapmakers pit the longest-serving U.S. representative, John Dingell, against the second-longest-serving rep, John Conyers (both Democrats) in a new congressional district that includes liberal Ann Arbor, the fur is gonna fly.
I’ll be watching for a newbie or maybe even a veteran Democrat to challenge the two fossils.
But that may not happen if Conyers, faced for once with a real challenge, dropped out before a primary that likely would include Dingell in 2012.
According to A2politico.com, GOP strategists could throw Conyers against Dingell in a new district that takes in Washtenaw County, including Ann Arbor.
In theory, according to politico, those academically-oriented Ann Arbor voters would go for Conyers, perceiving him the more liberal of the choice: Conyers vs. Dingell.
If it’s correct that Ann Arbor liberals today would be attracted to Conyers in a primary battle, the tilt could vanish between now and August 2012.
All it would take would be for someone to start writing about who John Conyers really is.
The image of the liberal gadfly Conyers would wilt under a strong light.
Oh sure, JC talks a good fight. But what has he actually accomplished?
A hard question, for him.
But here are harder ones for this long-serving rep to answer:
How does he run his office?
How does he manage his life?
Now that his wife, mouthy Monica, is in prison for taking bribes as a Detroit city councilwoman, we might wonder how it came about that such a supposedly shrewd politician got married to a future felon. And how those felonies were committed without his knowledge.
Setting family life aside, a congressman should be judged not only by how many laws were enacted that he or she wrote, but also by the quality of representation, including constituent service, he or she provides to the district, and the manner in which he treats the people who work for him.
Along with the issue of staff treatment would be the quality of staffer the congressman hires. Does he have a staffer convicted of felonies that were committed while running a scam from the congressman’s Detroit office as Conyers’ aide DeWayne Boyd was and did? For that matter, do his staffers — aided by the same felon, Boyd — grab Thanksgiving turkeys intended for poor people?
His wife and his staffer, both felons.
Makes you wonder. Why hasn’t anybody written about this?
But wait a minute — somebody already HAS written about the real John Conyers.
Why, come to think of it, the first articles ran in the Detroit Free Press and were written by Free Press Lansing Bureau Chief Chris Christoff and by me, back when I was a Free Press staffer.
Our November 21, 2003 Free Press stories sparked an investigation of Conyers by the House Ethics Committee.
Conyers eventually was sanitized, which is to say he was allowed to dodge the bullet of allegations that he allowed his congressional staffers to be paid federal wages for doing political campaign work, tutoring his wife, and chauffeuring and babysitting his kids.
He got off in part because other than the initial Free Press stories, there was virtually no press coverage of the Conyers ethics story. For reasons I still don’t understand, the Free Press dropped the story, except for revisiting it on those rare occasions when some other news outlet scooped the Freep on news editors chose to sit on.
Oh yes, joelontheroad.com has published some articles on Conyers.
Bet there will be more to come if Dingell and Conyers face off.
Do you think misdeeds reported eight years ago are irrelevant to the politics of today? Well, as the French say, plus ca change, plus c’est la meme goddam chose: to wit, reports late in 2010 of Conyers “apologizing” because his son misused a congressional car.
As Yogi Berra said, “deja vu all over again.”
I’d love to see the GOP plunk these two aging warriors into a cage and let them tear each other apart.
But there is an alternative not foreseen by the sages at politico.com.
The implications of filing falsified pay vouchers for congressional staffers who received tax money for doing political and personal errands for their boss are not only ethical.
They could rise to the level of crimes.
Charles Diggs was a Detroit congressman convicted of assigning congressional staffers to work in his family funeral home while collecting federal pay. Charles Diggs went to jail.
Other members of Congress — I’m thinking of Barbara Rose-Collins — were allowed to skate away from federal investigations by announcing they wouldn’t seek re-election.
So it is possible that instead of a cage match between Dingell and Conyers, the GOP might unintentionally foster a real election race between Dingell and some Democratic newcomer?
Or maybe one of two veteran Democrats paired by the GOP in another district, such as Gary Peters or Sander Levin, might choose not to bloody each other, but rather flip a coin so that one of them might cut off life support to the oldsters.
Such an outcome would change the game.
It would also mean the Republicans would not have quite such a tight grip on the future.
And it would be fun to watch.
Drop me a line at joelthurtell(at)gmail.com