Conyers announces he’s leaving Congress, endorses son as successor

 In Politics

John Conyers is pictured here. | Getty Images

Rep. John Conyers is the first member of Congress to relinquish his seat amid the growing national uproar over the mistreatment of women that has toppled powerful figures in Hollywood, the media and now Washington. | Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Facing sexual harassment allegations, the Democratic congressman and ‘dean of the House’ says, ‘I am retiring today.’

Updated


Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) has announced he is leaving Congress and endorsing his son, John Conyers III, to replace him following allegations of sexual harassment.

“I’m in the process of putting my retirement plans together, and I will have more about that very soon,” Conyers, 88, told a Detroit radio station.

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“I am retiring today,” he added soon after. “And I want everyone to know how much I appreciate the support — the incredible, undiminished support I’ve received across the years from my supporters, not only in my district but across the country as well.”

Conyers is the first member of Congress to relinquish his seat amid the growing national uproar over the mistreatment of women that has toppled powerful figures in Hollywood, the media and now Washington.

Conyers made the announcement that he was ending his congressional career in Detroit, his home and political base for more than five decades. The unofficial “dean of the House,” he was first elected in 1964 and is the longest-serving member of the body — one of the longest-serving House members in the history.

Conyers first became a congressional aide in 1958, working for the legendary Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.). His margin-of-victory in most of his 27 congressional races was overwhelming, though Conyers lost two bids for mayor of Detroit.

Conyers’ fall from grace was swift, but there were growing signs of trouble for him in recent days. Last week, some of Conyers’ closest allies in the Congressional Black Caucus — a group he co-founded — started urging him to step aside.

While Conyers has denied any wrongdoing, he also admitted paying out $27,000 to a former aide over sexual-harassment allegations. That incident was first reported by BuzzFeed. Conyers used a congressional fund that normally covers office expenses, which concealed the payment.

Another former aide had filed a lawsuit against Conyers earlier this year detailing numerous instances of improper sexual behavior, before later withdrawing the civil action. Then a third former female aide came forward last week to say that Conyers had propositioned her for sex as well.

With news outlets searching frantically for additional victims, Conyers’ support among his Democratic colleagues quickly eroded, especially among younger female members who had not served with the Michigan Democrat for long. Reps. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.) and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) called for Conyers’ resignation, and more Democrats were expected to follow their lead.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), stung by the backlash over her initial comments that appeared to support Conyers, threw her support behind an effort to have the Ethics Committee investigate the veteran lawmaker.

Pelosi and other Democrats also pressured Conyers to step down from his post as the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. He had been the first African-American ever to serve on the panel.

Behind the scenes, Pelosi and other top Democrats, including CBC members, were pressuring Conyers to step down, telling him that he didn’t want to go through an ethics investigation that could ruin his legacy.

Under enormous pressure on Capitol Hill, Conyers announced his retirement from the hospital.

“My legacy can’t be compromised or diminished in any way by what we’re going through now. This, too, shall pass, and I want you to know that my legacy will continue through my children,” Conyers said.

“I have a great family here, and especially in my oldest boy, John Conyers III, who incidentally I endorse to replace me in my seat in Congress,” he continued. “So we’re all working together to make this country a better one, to make equality and justice more available for any.”

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