Brenda Lawrence

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Brenda L. Lawrence
Rep. Brenda Lawrence Official Portrait.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Michigan's 14th district
Assumed office
January 3, 2015
Preceded by Gary Peters
Mayor of Southfield, Michigan
In office
Preceded by Donald F. Fracassi
Succeeded by Donald F. Fracassi (Acting)
Member of the Southfield, Michigan City Council
In office
Personal details
Born (1954-10-18) October 18, 1954 (age 64)
Detroit, Michigan
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) McArthur Lawrence
Religion Christian

Brenda L. Lawrence (born October 18, 1954) is an American politician and member of the Democratic Party who served as the Mayor of Southfield, Michigan from 2001 to 2015. The Democratic nominee for Oakland County Executive in 2008 and for Lieutenant Governor in 2010, she was elected U.S. Representative for Michigan's 14th congressional district after winning the seat in the 2014 elections.

Early life, education, and early political career

Lawrence grew up in Detroit's northeast side, on Lumpkin Street. She was raised by her grandparents after her mother died when she was three years old.[1] She graduated from Detroit's Pershing High School, and earned her bachelor's degree in Public Administration from Central Michigan University.[2]

In the early 1990s, as an active member of the Parent Teacher's Association at her children's school, she sought and earned a seat on the Southfield Public Schools Board of Education, serving as president, vice president, and secretary.

Southfield politics

In 1997, she was elected to serve on Southfield's City Council and in 1999 she was elected council president.

In 2001, she defeated longtime Southfield Mayor Donald Fracassi, becoming the city's first African-American and first female Mayor. She was re-elected in 2005 without opposition.[3] As Mayor, she was invited by the U.S. House Oversight Committee in 2008 to represent United States mayors in testimony about the mortgage crisis and its effect on American communities.[4] She returned to Washington later that year to lobby Congress for a bridge loan for the American auto industry.[5]

Lawrence was a Michigan delegate to the 2004 Democratic National Convention. As a superdelegate at the 2008 Democratic National Convention, she endorsed U.S. Senator Barack Obama for president in June 2008.[6]

She successfully sought a third term as mayor in 2009, defeating former Councilwoman Sylvia Jordan with nearly 80 percent of the vote.[7] She was re-elected to a fourth term unopposed in 2013.[8]

Campaigns for higher office

2008 Oakland County Executive election

In May 2008, Lawrence announced her candidacy for Oakland County Executive. She was unopposed for the Democratic nomination to unseat the long-time Republican incumbent, L. Brooks Patterson. Patterson won re-election 58%-42%. Lawrence's challenge to the polarizing Patterson was identified as the strongest challenge he faced in his six elections for County Executive.[9][10]

2010 gubernatorial election

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero named Lawrence as his running mate in his bid for Michigan governor. She was formally nominated as the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor at the Michigan Democratic Party convention in August 2010. They campaigned around the state promoting a 'Main Street Agenda' with emphasis on their shared backgrounds as mayors.[11]

As with the national election results, the 2010 general election in Michigan saw strong turnout and enthusiasm by Republican voters. Political pundits attributed the losses by Democrats, in part, to voter reaction to Democratic President Barack Obama and term-limited Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm. The Democratic gubernatorial ticket lost to Republican nominees Rick Snyder, a businessman, and Brian Calley, a State Representative, 58%-40%. No Democrats were elected statewide in 2010.[12]

2012 Congressional election

In late 2011, she announced she would be running in the newly redrawn 14th congressional district. She faced U.S. Representatives Hansen Clarke and Gary Peters, both of whom lived outside the district,[13] and former State Representative Mary D. Waters. Peters won with 47%, Clarke took 35%, Lawrence 13% and Waters 3%. Peters went on to win the general election.

2014 Congressional election

In May 2013, Peters announced that he would not be running for re-election in 2014. He instead ran for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Democrat Carl Levin. On January 23, 2014, Lawrence announced that she would be running for the 14th district for the second time.[14]

Lawrence was the first candidate to submit signatures to the state in order to be on the August primary ballot, doing so in March. Other candidates that filed for the Democratic nomination were former Congressman Hansen Clarke of Detroit, State Representative Rudy Hobbs of Southfield and teacher Burgess D. Foster of Detroit.

During the course of the campaign's contribution reporting, Hobbs raised a total of $607,806, Lawrence raised a total of $383,649 and Clarke raised a total of $173,124; Burgess reported no contributions to the Federal Election Commission, indicating that he raised or spent less than $5,000. Michigan Congressman Sander Levin's Political Action Committee, GOALPAC, also spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to help elect Hobbs, who was previously employed on Levin's congressional staff.[15]

Lawrence won the Democratic Party nomination on August 5, 2014, despite being outspent. Lawrence won with 36% of the vote, Hobbs took 32%, Clarke 31% and Foster 1%. She took the most votes in Oakland County, carrying the cities of Southfield, Pontiac and Oak Park, as well as Royal Oak Township. Although it was expected that Clarke would convincingly win the portion of Detroit within the district, where he lives and had previously held public office, Lawrence was competitive in the city and won more votes than all other candidates from voters who cast their ballot on Election Day in Detroit.[16]

As the Democratic nominee for Congress, she faced Republican nominee Christina Conyers of Detroit in the November general election. But Conyers withdrew from the race and Christina Barr of Pontiac was chosen as the Republican nominee.[17] The district has a history of voting heavily for Democratic candidates. Also facing off against Lawrence in the November election was Libertarian Party nominee Leonard Schwartz of Oak Park and Green Party nominee Stephen Boyle of Detroit.[18] Lawrence won with 78% of the vote, Barr took 20%, Schwartz 1% and Boyle 1%.

U.S. House of Representatives

Committee assignments

Personal life

Lawrence has been married to McArthur Lawrence for over 42 years. They were high school sweethearts, having met outside the Midway Market corner store where he worked on Detroit's east side. They bought their first home on Detroit's northwest side.

The couple has two children and a granddaughter, Asya.

Professionally, Lawrence worked for the federal government for 30 years in the United States Postal Service. She started as a letter carrier and later worked in human resources management; she retired in 2008.

Her husband is a United Auto Workers retiree from Ford Motor Company.[19]

Electoral history

  • 2014 Election for Congress, Michigan 14
Name Percent
Brenda L. Lawrence    78%
Christina Barr    20%
Leonard Schwartz    1%
Stephen Boyle    1%
  • 2014 Democratic primary for Congress, Michigan 14
Name Percent
Brenda L. Lawrence    36%
Rudy Hobbs    32%
Hansen Clarke    31%
Burgess Foster    1%
  • 2013 Election for Mayor of Southfield
Name Percent
Brenda L. Lawrence    100%
  • 2012 Democratic primary for Congress, Michigan 14
Name Percent
Gary Peters    47%
Hansen Clarke    35%
Brenda L. Lawrence    13%
Mary D. Waters    3%
Name Percent
Brian Calley   58%
Brenda L. Lawrence    40%
  • 2009 Election for Mayor of Southfield[7]
Name Percent
Brenda L. Lawrence   77.6%
Sylvia Jordan   22.3%
  • 2008 Election for Oakland County Executive[9]
Name Percent
L. Brooks Patterson   58.1%
Brenda L. Lawrence   41.6%
  • 2005 Election for Mayor of Southfield[7]
Name Percent
Brenda L. Lawrence    100%
  • 2001 Election for Mayor of Southfield[7]
Name Percent
Brenda L. Lawrence   52.6%
Donald Fracassi   47.4%


  1. Detroit News, 6/3/2008, Lawrence embraces challenge as Southfield mayor takes on 'iconic' Patterson
  2. "AP Source: Bernero picks Lawrence as running mate". Ionia Sentinel-Standard. Retrieved 4 February 2016. 
  3. "Our Campaigns - Southfield, MI Mayor Race - Nov 08, 2005". Retrieved 4 February 2016. 
  4. House Oversight Committee, 3/7/2008 Committee Holds Hearing on CEO Pay and the Mortgage Crisis
  5. Observer and Eccentric, 11/20/2008 Mayor speaks up for local auto suppliers
  6. "Brenda Lawrence for Congress". Retrieved 4 February 2016. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Official Election Results Certified by the Southfield City Clerk
  8. "Our Campaigns - Southfield, MI Mayor Race - Nov 05, 2013". Retrieved 4 February 2016. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 Election Results Certified by the Oakland County Clerk
  10. "Our Campaigns - Oakland County Executive Race - Nov 04, 2008". Retrieved 4 February 2016. 
  11. Archived from the original on August 30, 2010. Retrieved August 31, 2010.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  12. "Our Campaigns - MI Lieutenant Governor Race - Nov 02, 2010". Retrieved 4 February 2016. 
  13. "Report: Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence to run for Congress in Michigan's new-look 14th district". Retrieved 4 February 2016. 
  14. "Southfield Mayor: Detroit, don't drop dead". Detroit News. January 23, 2014. Retrieved January 24, 2014. 
  15. "Winner isn’t always the candidate with the most money". Retrieved 4 February 2016. 
  16. "It's official: Lawrence, Smith fend off challengers". Detroit Free Press. August 6, 2014. Retrieved August 6, 2014. 
  17. Archived from the original on September 17, 2014. Retrieved November 5, 2014.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  19. "Brenda Lawrence for Congress". Retrieved 4 February 2016. 

External links

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Gary Peters
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Michigan's 14th congressional district

January 3, 2015 – present
United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Steve Knight
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
Ted Lieu