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Rep. John Conyers: 'I Am Retiring Today'

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And some news just now - Representative John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat who has spent more than half a century in Congress, just made this announcement.

(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO SHOW, "THE MILDRED GADDIS SHOW")

JOHN CONYERS: I am retiring today.

GREENE: I am retiring today, Conyers said. He was speaking on "The Mildred Gaddis Show." That is a show on an urban gospel station in Detroit. This has come after Conyers weathered weeks of accusations of sexual harassment. I want to bring in my colleague, NPR political correspondent Don Gonyea, who has followed Conyers' career for several decades. And, Don, what exactly does this mean, I am retiring today?

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: All of the questions we were hoping to be answered today have not been answered, OK? So we had heard reports that he would announce that he's not seeking re-election when his current term...

GREENE: Next year, 2018.

GONYEA: ...Is up - 2018. He specifically did not use the word, I am resigning. He has been pressured to resign by Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats and, certainly, Republicans as well. He did not use the resign word. He said, I am retiring. He said, I'm retiring today, but the host did not ask, and we did not hear, if that means he is now leaving office or he's announcing his retirement today not to seek re-election. It sounds like it is more immediate, but we don't know that for sure. Further, he made an endorsement to replace him. He was asked a question about his legacy and if all of these allegations tarnish his legacy. He said, no, my legacy will live on through my work but also through my children, one of whom is John Conyers III. And then he said, whom I endorse to replace me in Congress.

GREENE: But replace him when - we don't know. Like, I mean, whether it's soon, whether it's the actual election next year, it's just not clear.

GONYEA: Exactly. And in Michigan, the governor does not appoint a replacement. There would have to be a special election in advance of next year's regular election if they're going to do that. And I might also tell you there is another Conyers who has announced interest in this seat - State Senator Ian Conyers, who is the congressman's great nephew - his brother's grandson.

GREENE: So could be two family members who are actually vying to replace him. What - "The Mildred Gaddis Show" - what is that and why did Conyers choose to make this announcement there?

GONYEA: She's a very prominent African-American talk host. She is probably among Conyers biggest supporters - period. He couldn't have found a more friendly audience, so he chose to go on that show. And her questions, again, were more about why he hasn't received due process and what all this will mean for his legacy.

GREENE: All right. NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea talking about Congressman John Conyers announcing, quote, that he is "retiring today." We'll have to sort out what that means. Don, thanks.

GONYEA: Pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at NPR.org. To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.
David Greene is an award-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author. He is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, the most listened-to radio news program in the United States, and also of NPR's popular morning news podcast, Up First.
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