Political Dynasties: Why Do Voters Keep Electing People With The Same Last Names?

Jake Neher/WDET

State Sen. Ian Conyers (D-Detroit), who is running to fill the seat in Congress vacated by his great uncle, former Rep. John Conyers (D-Detroit)

Two of Michigan’s longest-serving members of Congress are ending their tenure in Washington.

Congressman Sander Levin (D-Royal Oak) announced this week he will not seek re-election in 2018 after 35 years in the U.S. House. Former Congressman John Conyers (D-Detroit) resigned this week amid political scandal.

Already, it looks possible that Conyers and Levin could be replaced by people named Conyers and Levin. State Sen. Ian Conyers (D-Detroit), John Conyers’ great nephew, says he’ll run for that seat. In his resignation announcement on The Mildred Gaddis Show, Congressman Conyers endorsed his son John Conyers III — although it’s not clear whether he’ll actually run to succeed his father.

Rep. Sander Levin’s son Andy has already launched his campaign to fill his father’s seat.

This has sparked a lot of talk in the political world about dynastic politics in Michigan.

Click here to hear Stephen Henderson’s interviews with Rick Pluta and state Sen. Ian Conyers on Detroit Today

WDET’s Jake Neher and Michigan Public Radio’s Rick Pluta talk about political families in Michigan who have held onto power for generations.

I think 2018 is going to be a really interesting year to see where Michigan voters lie on this [issue of keeping political dynasties in power],” says Neher. “Of course, Michigan was one of the states that helped put Donald Trump in the White House in a year of ‘draining the swamp.’”

Neher and Pluta talk about how, despite having identical last names, these races are not necessarily shoe-ins for anyone named Conyers or Levin running next year.

We are not talking about the House of Lords here,” says Pluta. “Having a great political name is not necessarily being handed the keys to the castle.”

Click on the audio player above to hear the full conversation.

Image credit: Congressman Sander Levin/Andy Levin

This post is a part of 2018 Elections in Michigan.

On November 6, Michigan voters will decide who will be the state's new governor, attorney general and secretary of state. Some state House and Senate seats are up for grabs, and numerous initiatives are expected on ballots.

WDET is committed to providing honest, fair, inclusive coverage of Michigan's 2018 elections. Join us now and all the way to the voting booth to be an informed voter.


This post is a part of MichMash.

Each week, WDET's Jake Neher and Michigan Public Radio's Cheyna Roth un-jumble Michigan issues and talk about how statewide news stories affect you. 

About the Author

Rick Pluta


Rick Pluta has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.

Follow @rickpluta

Jake Neher

Detroit Today - Producer & Special Projects Reporter

Jake Neher is a producer & reporter for Detroit Today

Jake.Neher@wdet.org   Follow @GJNeher

We want to hear from you.
Share your thoughts and opinions: