Brenda Lulenar Lawrence (born October 18, 1954) is an American Democratic politician serving as a member of the United States House of Representatives. Lawrence served as 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 in 2014. The district covers most of eastern Detroit, including downtown, and stretches west to take in portions of Oakland County, including Lawrence’s home in Southfield.

Early life and education

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 attended local schools, graduating from Detroit’s Pershing High School. She then earned her bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from Central Michigan University.[2]


Lawrence had a 30-year career with the United States Postal Service, advancing to work in human resources.[3][4] In the early-1990s, as an active member of the Parent-Teacher Association at her children’s school, she sought and earned a seat on the Southfield Public Schools Board of Education. She served as president, vice president, and secretary of the board.

Southfield politics

Lawrence got more deeply involved in local affairs. In 1997, she was elected to serve on Southfield’s City Council,[5] and in 1999 she was elected council president.[4]

In 2001, Lawrence defeated longtime incumbent Donald Fracassi for the mayor’s office,[6] becoming the city’s first African-American and first female mayor.[5] She was reelected in 2005 without opposition.[7] As mayor, she was invited by the United States House Committee on Oversight and Reform in 2008 to represent United States mayors in testimony about the mortgage crisis and its effect on American communities.[8] She returned to Washington later that year to lobby Congress for a bridge loan for the American auto industry.[citation needed]

Lawrence served as 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.[9]

She successfully sought a third term as mayor in 2009, defeating former Councilwoman Sylvia Jordan with nearly 80 percent of the vote.[10] She was reelected to a fourth term unopposed in 2013.[11]

Campaigns for higher office

Lawrence’s freshman Congressional portrait

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 longtime Republican incumbent, L. Brooks Patterson. Patterson won reelection 58%-42%. Lawrence’s challenge to the polarizing Patterson was identified as the strongest challenge he faced in his six elections for County Executive.[12][13]

2010 gubernatorial election

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero named Lawrence as his running mate in his bid for governor of Michigan. 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.[14]

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 President 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 statewide Democratic candidates were successful in 2010.[15]

2012 congressional election

In late 2011, Lawrence announced she would be running in the newly redrawn 14th congressional district. The district had previously been the 13th, represented by freshman Democrat Hansen Clarke. It was redrawn to take in a large slice of Oakland County, including Southfield. Clarke’s home in Detroit was drawn into the neighboring 13th district, but he opted to follow most of his constituents into the 14th.

In the Democratic primary, the real contest in this heavily Democratic, black-majority district, Lawrence faced incumbent representatives Clarke and Gary Peters, both of whom lived outside the district,[16] and former State Representative Mary D. Waters. Peters won with 47%, to Clarke’s 35%, Lawrence’s 13%, and Waters’s 3%. Peters went on to win the general election.

2014 congressional election

In May 2013, Peters announced that he would not be running for reelection 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 would run for the 14th district for the second time.[17]

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 $383,649 and Clarke $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.[18]

Lawrence won the Democratic Party nomination on August 5, 2014, with 36% of the vote to Hobbs’s 32%, Clarke’s 31% and Foster’s 1%. She took the most votes in Oakland County, carrying 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.[19]

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.[20] 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.[21] Lawrence won with 78% of the vote, Barr took 20%, Schwartz 1% and Boyle 1%.

U.S. House of Representatives

Committee assignments

Caucus memberships

Personal life

Lawrence is married to McArthur Lawrence. 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. They have two children and a granddaughter. 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. Lawrence’s husband is a United Auto Workers retiree from Ford Motor Company.[28]

Electoral history

  • 2016 Election for Congress, Michigan 14[29]
Brenda L. Lawrence   79%
Howard A. Klausner   19%
Gregory Creswell   2%
Marcia Squier   1%
  • 2014 Election for Congress, Michigan 14
Brenda L. Lawrence   78%
Christina Barr   20%
Leonard Schwartz   1%
Stephen Boyle   1%
  • 2014 Democratic primary for Congress, Michigan 14
Brenda L. Lawrence   36%
Rudy Hobbs   32%
Hansen Clarke   31%
Burgess Foster   1%
  • 2013 Election for Mayor of Southfield
Brenda L. Lawrence   100%
  • 2012 Democratic primary for Congress, Michigan 14
Gary Peters   47%
Hansen Clarke   35%
Brenda L. Lawrence   13%
Mary D. Waters   3%
Brian Calley  58%
Brenda L. Lawrence   40%
  • 2009 Election for Mayor of Southfield[10]
Brenda L. Lawrence  77.6%
Sylvia Jordan  22.3%
  • 2008 Election for Oakland County Executive[12]
L. Brooks Patterson  58.1%
Brenda L. Lawrence  41.6%
  • 2005 Election for Mayor of Southfield[10]
Brenda L. Lawrence   100%
  • 2001 Election for Mayor of Southfield[10]
Brenda L. Lawrence  52.6%
Donald Fracassi  47.4%

See also


  1. ^ “Lawrence embraces challenge as Southfield mayor takes on ‘iconic’ Patterson”, Detroit News, 6/3/2008
  2. ^ “AP Source: Bernero picks Lawrence as running mate”. Ionia Sentinel-Standard. Retrieved 4 February 2016.
  3. ^ Russell, Zach (4 September 2020). “Michigan congresswomen urge passage of bill to protect funding of United States Postal Service”. News-Herald. Retrieved 2020-11-17.
  4. ^ a b Burke, Melissa Nann. “Lawrence wins a fourth term in the U.S. House”. The Detroit News. Retrieved 2020-11-17.
  5. ^ a b Summers, Renee (26 March 2020). “Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence Emphasizes Service to Community”. Telegram. Retrieved 2020-11-17.
  6. ^ Laitner, Bill (1 December 2014). “Ex-mayor set to steer Southfield toward economic growth”. Detroit Free Press. Retrieved 2020-11-17.
  7. ^ “Our Campaigns – Southfield, MI Mayor Race – Nov 08, 2005”. Retrieved 4 February 2016.
  8. ^ House Oversight Committee, 3/7/2008 Committee Holds Hearing on CEO Pay and the Mortgage Crisis Archived November 26, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ “Brenda Lawrence for Congress”. Retrieved February 4, 2016.
  10. ^ a b c d Official Election Results Certified by the Southfield City Clerk
  11. ^ “Our Campaigns – Southfield, MI Mayor Race – Nov 05, 2013”. Retrieved 4 February 2016.
  12. ^ a b Election Results Certified by the Oakland County Clerk Archived December 18, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ “Our Campaigns – Oakland County Executive Race – Nov 04, 2008”. Retrieved 4 February 2016.
  14. ^ Gray, Kathleen. “Bernero picks Brenda Lawrence as running mate”. Archived from the original on August 30, 2010. Retrieved August 31, 2010.
  15. ^ “Our Campaigns – MI Lieutenant Governor Race – Nov 02, 2010”. Retrieved 4 February 2016.
  16. ^ “Report: Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence to run for Congress in Michigan’s new-look 14th district”. Retrieved 4 February 2016.
  17. ^ “Southfield Mayor: Detroit, don’t drop dead”. Detroit News. January 23, 2014. Archived from the original on February 2, 2014. Retrieved January 24, 2014.
  18. ^ “Winner isn’t always the candidate with the most money”. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 4 February 2016.
  19. ^ “It’s official: Lawrence, Smith fend off challengers”. Detroit Free Press. August 6, 2014. Retrieved August 6, 2014.
  20. ^ Gray, Kathleen. “Christina Conyers withdraws from 14th Congressional District race”. Archived from the original on September 17, 2014. Retrieved November 5, 2014.
  21. ^ Official candidate list, Nov. 4, 2014, Oakland County, Michigan website
  22. ^ “Members”. New Democrat Coalition. Archived from the original on February 8, 2018. Retrieved February 5, 2018.
  23. ^ “Caucus Members”. Congressional Progressive Caucus. Archived from the original on 2017-10-22. Retrieved 25 October 2017.
  24. ^ “Membership”. Congressional Black Caucus. Retrieved 7 March 2018.
  25. ^ “Membership”. Congressional Arts Caucus. Archived from the original on 12 June 2018. Retrieved 21 March 2018.
  26. ^ “Members”. U.S. – Japan Caucus. Retrieved 11 December 2018.
  27. ^ “Archived copy”. Archived from the original on 2019-02-27. Retrieved 2019-02-27.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  28. ^ “Brenda Lawrence for Congress”. Retrieved 4 February 2016.
  29. ^ “Michigan General Election 2016”. Michigan Secretary of State. November 28, 2016. Retrieved March 28, 2016.

External links

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by

Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Michigan’s 14th congressional district

Preceded by

Chair of the Congressional Women’s Caucus
Succeeded by

U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by

United States representatives by seniority
Succeeded by