State Rep. Melissa Conyears-Ervin celebrates her last day as a member of the Illinois General Assembly. [Twitter/@Kam_Buckner]

With Treasurer-elect Melissa Conyears-Ervin set to be sworn in as Chicago treasurer in less than two weeks, it will fall to a group of Democratic Party insiders from the city’s and Northwest and West sides to pick her replacement in the Illinois House.

When the committeepeople who represent the wards that make up the 10th Illinois House District gather at noon May 18, Conyears-Ervin’s husband Ald. Jason Ervin (28), Ald. Walter Burnett (27) and Ald. Scott Waguespack (32) will hold the lion’s share of the votes needed to pick Illinois’ newest state representative.

Burnett said he will back his stepson Jawaharial “Omar” Williams to replace Conyears-Ervin over the more than a dozen other interested candidates.

Williams has been working precincts since he was a teenager alongside the alderman, who has been a member of Secretary of State Jesse White’s political organization for decades along with Ervin and Conyears-Ervin.

“I don’t know of any family business that don’t — I shouldn’t say family business — but if your kids work hard… that’s what I work for, to promote my kids, help my kids if they do well,” Burnett said. “If they’re not deserving of it, they’re not deserving of it. So we’ll see how all the other members look at it and we’ll take it from there. It’s no different than Jason pushing his wife for the state rep spot and pushing her for treasurer.”

Ervin declined to say who he would back to replace his wife as state representative through a spokesman.

Ald. Scott Waguespack (32) said he had not decided whom to support.

Conyears-Ervin, who resigned May 1, said in a statement she would leave the choice of her replacement to the committeepeople.

“I want my replacement to continue fighting for working class families and pushing for increased education and childcare funding,” Conyears-Ervin said.

WVON radio morning show host Maze Jackson told The Daily Line in an emailed statement he is also interested in replacing Conyears-Ervin and would strive “to bring economic resources back to the district, and to be an uncompromised vociferous advocate for self-interests of the Black community. I want to get an answer to ‘What’s in it for the Black People?’ in the state of Illinois.”

In addition to Williams and Jackson, Chavonne Carter, an assistant in White’s office; Dwight Lee, an executive in White’s office; Gerard Moorer in U.S. Rep. Danny Davis’ office; and former state Rep. Eddie Winters are also interested in replacing Conyears-Ervin, Burnett said.

Ervin and Burnett backed Conyears-Ervin’s bid for treasurer, and White featured prominently in her campaign’s television spots.

Williams’ mother, and the alderman’s wife, is former Cook County Comm. Darlena Williams Burnett, who is now the deputy chief of facilities for the Chicago Housing Authority. Williams, who has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, has been a plumber for 16 years, and has done work for Chicago’s water department, Burnett said, adding that his stepson is “looking at law school.”

Burnett said he “couldn’t go home at night,” if he didn’t support Williams for the spot, but “that doesn’t mean he’s gonna get it.”

Ward Committeeperson 2018 GE Turnout Weighted Vote
1 Proco Joe Moreno 1,412 4.46%
2 Tim Egan 3,737 11.81%
24 Michael Scott Jr. 876 2.77%
26 Roberto Maldonado 989 3.12%
27 Walter Burnett Jr. 9,159 28.94%
28 Jason Ervin 5,679 17.94%
29 Chris Taliaferro 6 0.02%
32 Scott Waguespack 5,566 17.59%
37 Emma Mitts 2,375 7.50%
43 Lucy Moog 1,850 5.85%

 

State law requires a replacement to be picked within 30 days of a resignation from the Illinois House.

Conyears-Ervin’s replacement must receive a simple majority of votes of the committee, which will be weighted according to how many votes were logged in her race in the 1st, 2nd, 24th, 26th, 27th, 28th, 29th, 32nd, 37th and 43rd wards in the 2018 general election.

Those interested in replacing Conyears-Ervin can email their resumes to Burnett at wbj863@yahoo.com.  

“What we plan on doing is having a general session to allow everyone to present their credentials,” Burnett said. “After that, we’re going to have an executive meeting, then we’re going to choose the state rep.”

Conyears-Ervin was elected to the Illinois House in 2016 running unopposed in the Democratic primary and defeating Republican Mark Spognardi in the general election. She was unopposed in the 2018 election.

Conyears-Ervin replaced former state Rep. Pamela Reaves-Harris, who served one two-year term. Before her, former state Rep. Derrick Smith also served one term beginning in 2012. Smith was ousted by House colleagues after he was charged with accepting a bribe, and was convicted of bribery in June 2014.

Smith was replaced by Winters, a former Chicago Police officer.

Williams and the Ervins are “good friends,” Burnett said.

“So I don’t know if Jason’s gonna support him or not,” Burnett said. “Everybody’s still talking to everybody. At the end of the day, whoever takes it is going to have to run and start circulating petitions in August, hurry up and raise money, have soldiers, all of that good stuff. I think someone from our organization would be ready, would have all of that support.”

Conyears-Ervin, who is set to take office as treasurer on May 20, gave her farewell speech on the House floor on May 2. She thanked colleagues for “allowing me to be me,” and grew emotional discussing the future of the Black Caucus. She said she was proud to have been able to nurse her then-6-month-old daughter Jeneva in a special room for mothers in the Capitol.

Conyears-Ervin also thanked her husband for his support.

Ervin himself was appointed to his seat on the City Council by Mayor Richard M. Daley in 2011, won election the following month, and re-election in 2015 and 2019.