The Corner

Blame It on the Name, They Say

Also in Detroit, Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick is having a tough go at reelection

The two names — Kilpatrick and Conyers — are radioactive.

They represent what has gone wrong in the City of Detroit as it struggles with multimillion-dollar deficits and public corruption.

But will the taint of Kwame Kilpatrick and Monica Conyers — former elected officials who resigned their offices after pleading guilty to felony corruption charges — rub off on their relatives?

U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, mother of former Detroit Mayor Kilpatrick, and U.S. Rep. John Conyers, husband to former City Councilwoman Conyers, could have trouble if — as expected — they seek re-election in 2010.

A poll of 300 voters each in Kilpatrick’s and Conyers’ congressional districts shows that only 27% of the people polled would vote for Kilpatrick. Conyers’ numbers are stronger with 40% of the people polled saying they would vote for him.

But only 34% of voters in Kilpatrick’s district and just 22% in Conyers’ district say the problems of their son and wife, respectively, affect their opinions of the two Congress members.

The survey was conducted from Aug. 13 to Tuesday by Denno Noor Polling in East Lansing with support from Lansing-based Rossman and Perricone groups. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.8 percentage points.

“Kilpatrick is probably the weakest of the two,” said Eric Foster of Urban Political Consulting in Detroit. “She barely won that last race.”

Kilpatrick, with a campaign treasury of more than $1 million, won 39% of the primary vote in 2008 against challengers Mary Waters — a former state representative recently indicted for bribery — and state Sen. Martha Scott, who spent about $60,000 combined on the race.

Kilpatrick easily won the 2008 general election in the overwhelmingly Democratic district, which is comprised mainly of Detroit but includes the Grosse Pointes and other suburbs.

Even though Kwame Kilpatrick is long gone, having served his sentence and moved to Texas, the connection will be hard to break, Foster said. “He was such a divisive figure. He and the people around him continue to remind people every day of all that they did. She’s still his mother.”

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