Janice Winfrey says she will 'bring home the bacon' to 13th District 

Janice WinfreyThe obvious first question for Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey, who in September formally announced her intention to scale Mt. Conyers, is…why?
But it is the inevitable follow-up question that provides the root of an answer: why not?
After all, Congressman John Conyers has been in office representing Detroit for 50 years, ever since 1965. That equals 26 consecutive terms that the man has been elected to office. To say that Conyers has been in office a long time is like saying it is somewhat hot on the surface of the sun. And although some consider it heresy to even suggest that maybe, just maybe, Conyers has been on the job long enough, it has to be considered a reasonable question and concern that someone who has done the same job for 50 years – and who is now 86 years old – might not be as effective as he once was.
“This race is not about the honorable John Conyers, it is about the 13th congressional district, “ said Winfrey.
No one, including Winfrey, has ever argued that Conyers is not honored, revered, and widely respected for the enormous contributions he has made over the years. The seniority and institutional knowledge Conyers has acquired during his lengthy stay can certainly be considered a benefit. The question Winfrey wants voters to consider, however, is whether this will remain a benefit, and whether it is more important to allow Conyers to retain his seat out of respect and admiration as opposed to what is best for the district.
“First and foremost, we know John Conyers as a congressperson of the nation, a national congressperson whose work is well-respected. We all love and are endeared to him. And at the time, 50 years ago when he was elected, we only had about 10 African Americans in Congress. And we needed a national voice as African Americans. We needed someone to speak for us. To share our platform and even to create our platform to some degree,” said Winfrey.
“But we find ourselves, 50 some odd years later, with a different platform and a different need. You see, as the national congressman that he has become it seems as though the district has suffered as it relates to such. The district needs a representative. And I’ve met with all 11 mayors of the district, many of the clerks and some of the congress people, and basically they all say the same thing; we have a need.
“I’m running because I realize that what’s going on in the district really isn’t what’s going on nationally. I think the district needs to be more in line with some of the national things that are going on. Meaning, for example, if you look at the unemployment rate in the 13th congressional district, it’s 13 percent. When you look at the unemployment rate nationally, it’s 5 percent. We’re not aligned, and we need to be closer.
“When you look at homeownership in the district, it’s about 49 percent. Nationally it’s 64 percent. Graduation rate in the 13th district is about 13 percent. High school graduation rate. Nationally it’s 81 percent. Median household income in the district is about $32,000. Nationally it’s $54,000.”
Actually, according to Ballotpedia, the rate of unemployment in the 13th district is 24.7 percent, which, if accurate, is even worse than Winfrey thought (according to the U.S. Census, the unemployment rate for the 13th District is 15.7 percent). As for median household income, that is listed as $29,863, which isn’t that far off from her quoted figures. But as for high school graduation rate, Ballotpedia lists that as being 80.4%, which is significantly higher than 13 percent, and right up there with the national average. The college graduation rate in the 13th district, however, is given as 13.4%. The U.S. Census figures are pretty much the same as those listed by Ballotpedia, although median income is recorded as $31,887.
Still, the question of whether Conyers remains effective leads to another equally important question, namely whether or not he is vulnerable. Some seem to think that he is particularly vulnerable in 2016, but whoever challenges him will need to line up some powerful endorsements and a respectable amount of cash rather quickly. According to the Federal Election Commission, Winfrey had raised a total of $18,840 as of September 30, the most recent data available. Her total expenditures of $10,940 left her with a total of $7,900 cash on hand. Considering that she had just announced her candidacy the previous Friday on Sept. 25, that’s not bad, but she will need considerably more.
Political analyst Eric Foster was quoted in the Detroit Free Press as saying that “the right candidate can beat him.” Similar to Winfrey’s accusation, Foster said that Conyers was more attached to social justice issues than pork barrel issues that bring money and jobs home to his constituents. He compared Conyers to another Michigan legislative lion, John Dingell, who he said had a reputation for balancing social justice issues with pork barrel issues.
Foster also said, however, that Winfrey would need to raise “north of half a million dollars” by the end of December. Foster and other political observers agree that one of Winfrey’s biggest challenges, in addition to fundraising, will be to generate enough excitement for her candidacy among voters outside of Detroit to offset the expected strong support Conyers always gets inside city limits. Winfrey claims she has made strong inroads outside of Detroit, and suggested that others might be surprised at the level of support her candidacy is receiving.
“I think we need someone who can bring the bacon. We appreciate the national platform, but it isn’t necessary right now. We need someone who is looking out for home,” said Winfrey, who listed her creation of satellite offices, allowing Detroiters to cast their vote as much as 30 days prior to an election without having to come downtown, as an example of ‘looking out for home’.
Winfrey is also concerned that Conyers may not be taking enough advantage of certain grants and appropriations from Washington that the 13th District qualifies for, although she didn’t list any specifics.

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