New Gen: Ian Conyers, a Lansing Rookie, Sees Himself as a Congressional Heir

A 29-year-old legislator with a well-known last name sees himself as a political heir -- though his family has someone else in mind first.

"I will seek to continue the service we have provided Detroit and Michigan families," State Sen. Ian Conyers posts Tuesday morning on Facebook about an hour before his great-uncle, John Conyers, confirmed his immediate retirement before his 26th congressional term ends.

The younger Conyers, who first won elective office last November, now casts himself as a successor to the U.S. House seat that has been in his family's hands since 1965 -- 23 years before he was born in Detroit as the grandson of Nathan Conyers, a brother of the congressman.

His has competition already from second cousin John Conyers III, the congressman's 27-year-old son and his chosen successor, and from defeated Detroit mayoral candidate Coleman A. Young Jr.

Ian Conyers, the youngest state senator in Michigan history, brashly wastes no time seeking a spotlight. He tipped off The New York Times that his relative would announce his retirement Tuesday morning on a Detroit radio show and told reporter Yamiche Alcindor he's running for the seat next year. 

His Facebook post praises the elderly Conyers:

The Dean has served our nation as a warrior on the battlefield in Korea and here at home as a champion of civil rights. He has been a hero of mine and learned from his father, John Conyers Sr., who lead the Great Migration from Georgia to become the second black hired by UAW in 1940 to fight for what's right.

Conyers the elder and the relative who wants his job are Democrats separated by 59 years and two generations. Now Conyers the younger is ready to leap up from being a rookie senator in Lansing to serving on Capitol Hill in Washington. 

"The work of protecting working people of southeast Michigan from a Washington administration that is changing the rules must continue," Sen. Conyers says in his social media post. He refers to "nearly 100 years" of public service by his great-uncle and himself -- a stretch that includes their non-elective community and organized labor work.

The freshman state lawmaker, a graduate of the University of Detroit Jesuit High School. likely had his eye on this goal since entering Georgetown University in Washington as a government major in 2006 and staying for a 2015 master's in urban planning, it's reasonable to assume.

That doesn't mean he won't face a primary challenger for the open seat. "Why is his nephew State Sen. Ian Conyers positioning himself in this [Times] article as the rightful owner of the Conyers seat?" tweets Bankole Thompson, a former Michigan Chronicle editor who's now a twice-weekly Detroit News columnist. 

There's a local parallel, of sorts, for a congressional dynasty -- though not jumping two generations.

Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, in 2014 won a seat that has been in her family's hands since 1932, when John Dingell Sr. was elected. The elder Dingell served for 22 years and was succeeded by his son in 1958. John D. Dingell  served 60 years -- the longest congressional tenure in U.S. history.

The current congresswoman, 64, represents a district (redrawn repeatedly) that first elected her father-in-law 85 years ago. (She's Dingell's second wife. They wed in 1981 and she switched from being a Republican.)

The Dingells' political legacy is unlikely to be matched in length by another American family of either party.

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