Chicago treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin exploring Congress bid; says she’ll run if Rep. Danny Davis retires

Conyears-Ervin: Whenever Davis “should choose to retire, I will be running to succeed him and continue his legacy of service.”

SHARE Chicago treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin exploring Congress bid; says she’ll run if Rep. Danny Davis retires
City Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin postponed a launch of her 2024 bid for Congress.

Chicago City Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin, pictured at a City Council meeting, is exploring a 2024 bid for Congress.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

WASHINGTON — Chicago City Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin on Tuesday said she is exploring a 2024 run for Congress, making her move now, she said, in case Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill., decides to retire.

On Feb. 2, 2023, Davis, 82, a member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee who represents the 7th Congressional District, filed a statement of 2024 candidacy with the Federal Election Commission.

Conyears-Ervin, 47, a Garfield Park resident who was reelected city treasurer on Feb. 28, filed her statement of candidacy with the FEC on Tuesday.

She has nothing to lose in running for Congress in 2024 — she will be midway through her term — with the big question whether she would go ahead and challenge Davis in a Democratic primary if he runs again.

“Today, I am taking steps to run for Congress to serve the people of Illinois’ Seventh Congressional District. I’ve lived in this district my entire life and I understand the bold leadership that is needed to breathe new life into our communities,” Conyears-Ervin said in a statement.

In the heavily Democratic 7th Congressional District, winning the primary is tantamount to clinching the seat.

The district runs west from parts of Chicago’s downtown to the western suburbs, including Maywood and Oak Park, with a leg on the near South Side, taking in parts of Bronzeville and Washington Park.

Politically, it is rooted on the West Side, where Davis had served as an alderperson between 1979-1990 and Cook County Commissioner from 1990 until joining Congress, first elected to the seat on Nov. 5, 1996.

Conyears-Ervin’s husband is Ald. Jason C. Ervin, whose 28th Ward sweeps in parts of the West Side.

In the 2022 Democratic primary, Davis won with 51.88% of the vote, defeating challenger Kina Collins at 45.73%.

U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, pictured last month.

U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, pictured last month.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Unlike elections to municipal and state offices, federal candidates have caps on campaign contributions, which means it takes months — sometimes years — to build a substantial war chest.

Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson, who was little known when he jumped in the mayoral contest, was bolstered by multimillion-dollar contributions from the Chicago Teachers Union and other labor organizations. That’s not possible in a congressional race.

Conyears-Ervin explained in her statement, “Unfortunately, congressional races are long, logistically complicated, and expensive. I am taking this step today in order to ensure that I have the proper infrastructure to hit the ground running when the right time comes. Congressman Danny Davis has ably served the people of the Seventh District for many years. Whenever he should choose to retire, I will be running to succeed him and continue his legacy of service.”

Davis chief of staff Tumia Romero, who is also his top political adviser, told the Sun-Times that Davis has upcoming fundraisers in Washington on April 27 and May 11 and another in Chicago on May 4.

She said, “For decades now, people have speculated on what he will or will not do. When he is ready to speak up on what his plans are — announce anything he needs to announce — he knows how to do that. … He’s not shy.”

Romero said the Davis government and political operation is running “normal, as if we are running for reelection.”

It’s too early to determine whether the age of Davis becomes an issue. Davis is mindful that President Joe Biden is 80 and poised to officially announce a bid for a second term. Stepping down because of his age may shine an unfavorable light on Biden.

In his January State of the Union address, Biden, making the case for his reelection, said multiple times, “Let’s finish the job.”

Romero referenced that line in talking about Davis running again. Said Romero, when it comes to Davis, “Let’s finish the job.”

The Conyears-Ervin campaign team

Conyears-Ervin has already signed up a congressional campaign team. Her campaign manager is Matt Harrison, a veteran of several Senate campaigns; pollster Jason McGrath of GBAO Strategies, who polled for Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s reelection campaign; media consultant Amy Gooden from Lefthook, who’s done various Illinois campaigns; mail, Adnaan Muslim, Deliver Strategies; and fundraising, Tom Bowen and Tracy Mayfield from New Chicago Consulting.

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