Un­der pres­sure, Rep. Cony­ers ‘re­tir­ing to­day’

Houston Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - By Yamiche Al­cin­dor

Rep. John Cony­ers, un­der in­tense pres­sure from fel­low Democrats to re­sign amid al­le­ga­tions that he sex­u­ally ha­rassed for­mer em­ploy­ees, an­nounces that he will leave Con­gress im­me­di­ately and en­dorses his son to suc­ceed him.

WASH­ING­TON — Rep. John Cony­ers Jr., un­der in­tense pres­sure to re­sign amid mul­ti­ply­ing al­le­ga­tions that he sex­u­ally ha­rassed for­mer em­ploy­ees, an­nounced Tues­day that he will leave Con­gress im­me­di­ately, and he en­dorsed his son, John Cony­ers III, to suc­ceed him.

Cony­ers, 88, the “dean” of the House and the long­est-serv­ing African-Amer­i­can in his­tory, ac­qui­esced to weeks of pres­sure from fel­low Democrats, but by try­ing to keep his Detroit-area seat in the fam­ily, he touched off a fam­ily feud be­tween his 27-yearold son and his great-nephew, Ian Cony­ers, a state se­na­tor from Michi­gan who also plans to run in a spe­cial House elec­tion.

In a phone in­ter­view, Ian Cony­ers said his great-un­cle had en­cour­aged him to run for the seat days be­fore de­cid­ing to step down. Now the two younger Cony­ers will most likely face off in what may be­come a bat­tle over the legacy of John Cony­ers, D-Mich., con­sid­ered an icon to many black peo­ple.

“I said, ‘Sir, if you de­cide that you’re go­ing to re­tire, give me a heads-up be­cause I’m go­ing to run for your seat and keep do­ing the work that you have been up to,’ ” Ian Cony­ers said. “He said, ‘Ab­so­lutely. You go for it. Run.’ ”

Cony­ers held out for weeks af­ter Buz­zFeed News published doc­u­ments last month that showed he had set­tled a sex­ual ha­rass­ment case with an em­ployee who said she was fired af­ter re­fus­ing his ad­vances.

But by Tues­day morn­ing, he had given in.

“I am re­tir­ing to­day,” he told “The Mil­dred Gad­dis Show,” a lo­cal ra­dio pro­gram, from a hos­pi­tal in Michi­gan. “I am in the process of putting to­gether my re­tire­ment plans.”

He con­tin­ued to deny that he had ha­rassed for­mer em­ploy­ees and said he did not know where those al­le­ga­tions came from.

On Tues­day morn­ing, Rep. Sheila Jack­son Lee, D-Hous­ton, also an­nounced Cony­ers’ re­tire­ment on the House floor, say­ing Cony­ers had in­formed the House speaker, Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., the mi­nor­ity leader.

“I think the legacy of John Cony­ers will speak for it­self,” Lee said later in an in­ter­view. “His last words were that he didn’t want to be a dis­trac­tion and that he will con­tinue to fight for jobs, jus­tice and peace.”

She added that Cony­ers’ years of work­ing on is­sues like vot­ing rights and mass in­car­cer­a­tion “can­not be erased.”

Cony­ers tried to make the same case as he en­dorsed his son.” My legacy can’t be com­pro­mised or di­min­ished in any way by what we are go­ing through now,” he said dur­ing the ra­dio in­ter­view. “This, too, shall pass. My legacy will con­tinue through my chil­dren.”

John Cony­ers III, who has not held elected of­fice be­fore, was cited on sus­pi­cion of speed­ing in his fa­ther’s con­gres­sional ve­hi­cle in 2010, ac­cord­ing to The Detroit Free Press.

His fa­ther re­im­bursed the Trea­sury Depart­ment more than $5,600 for the com­man­deer­ing of a govern­ment ve­hi­cle for per­sonal use. The younger Cony­ers also re­leased a rap song, “Rich Glo­ri­ous,” and de­scribes him­self as “a part­ner at Detroit’s first mi­nor­ity run hedge fund.”

“I think the legacy of John Cony­ers will speak for it­self. His last words were that he didn’t want to be a dis­trac­tion and that he will con­tinue to fight for jobs, jus­tice and peace.”

Rep. Sheila Jack­son Lee, D-Hous­ton

AFP / Getty Im­ages

John Cony­ers, 88, rep­re­sents the Detroit area.


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