|Brenda Lawrence has been the mayor of Southfield for 11 years. She has previously served on the Southfield City Council and the Southfield Public School Board of Education. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has also served on the Parent Youth Guidance Commission, Oakland County United Way Advisory Committee, and Oakland County AIDS Council.|
Five candidates — U.S. Rep. Hansen Clarke, Bob Costello, Brenda Lawrence, U.S. Rep. Gary Peters and Mary Waters — are competing in the Tuesday, Aug. 7 primary election for the Democratic nomination for the 14th U.S. Congressional District seat. The winner will take on the Republican nominee in the Nov. 6 general election. U.S. representatives serve two-year terms and are currently paid $174,000 annually.
The following are the questions we posed to Lawrence, and her responses to those questions.
BUDGET: As a member of Congress, you will help determine the federal government’s budget, which this year is quickly approaching a dubious milestone: The fourth consecutive year in which there are deficits of $1 trillion or more. In addition, the federal debt is nearing the $16 trillion mark. What spending priorities do you have, and where would you cut back the country’s ledgers to get the U.S. on a more sustainable fiscal path?
LAWRENCE: Any serious effort to address the federal deficit and debt must consider both the revenue and spending sides of the equation. We must put all of our spending on the table for review, including defense and national security spending. The U.S. spends more than $840 billion a year on defense and national security and leads the world in that category. When you total defense spending for the other nine countries in the top 10 they all together add up to $487 billion. When the U.S. is spending 52 percent more on defense and national security than the next nine countries combined, we must take a harder look.
ECONOMY: Slowly but surely, signs of economic life are emerging after years of a prolonged recession that devastated the nation’s economy. Yet we still face employment of over 8 percent nationally and 8.3 percent here in Michigan. What more needs to be done to bring the American back to the thriving economy it once enjoyed?
LAWRENCE: We need to address the aging infrastructure of our country, particularly in our urban areas. To bring back a thriving economy we must have the underpinnings in place to support it.
NATIONAL DEFENSE: It’s been over a decade since the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and over a year since Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden. Yet the country remains embroiled in a war in Afghanistan and other conflicts in the Middle East to a lesser extent. What, if anything, would you do differently in the realm of national defense and protecting the country from terrorists? What are the threats from abroad that concern you most, and why?
LAWRENCE: Currently, Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon is a major thrat that concerns me greatly. We must protect ourselves from the threat of terrorists, and I support aiding our allies. We must continue to use diplomacy, coordinate with our allies and make certain that we stand with our friends. It is critical that we remain a leader on the world stage. And I do support a responsible withdrawal from Afghanistan.
BIPARTISANSHIP: Rancor between the two major political parties is seemingly at an all-time high when there are serious issues for the country to tackle, leaving hopes dim that major things can be accomplished in a bipartisan, cooperative way. Explain how you would go about working with the other side of the aisle on critical issues facing our nation. Tell us one thing you would be willing to compromise on with the other side of the political aisle. What’s one issue on which your party’s platform should more closely resemble that of the other political party?
LAWRENCE: I’m going to Washington as the Congresswoman of the 14th District not to fight with Republicans but to work with them to find realistic solutions to our common problems, and to fight for the people of the 14th District.
HEALTH CARE: What measures would you put in place to insure that Americans get greater access to health care?
LAWRENCE: I support the Affordable Health Care Act but I also believe that it can be improved and that as all of its provisions come into practice, we will be able to make it better.
TOP ISSUES: What are the three most important issues to the 14th Congressional District at this time and how would you address them?
LAWRENCE: Education, employment and public safety are the three most important issues for the 14th District at this time. We must provide the education that we have promised to the children in the areas of the 14th that have challenged school districts. It takes $7,500 a year to educate a child and $37,000 a year to imprison them and taxpayers are picking up the bill both ways. The common denominator for people in prison is a lack of education.
For jobs to come back into southeast Michigan, we must have the infrastructure to support those business. We must invest in our infrastructure. That by itself will create jobs and create an environment where business are will to locate. By improving our schools and our public safety, that will also add to the potential for job providers to locate in southeast Michigan. Mass transit is a much needed improvement in the Detroit metro area.
Public safety is paramount. We must do better for our first responders, and we must partner with them to help keep our communities, elderly and children safe. Again, for job creators to come to the 14th, there must be an environment that people want to live and work in.
WHY YOU? Why should voters choose you rather than your opponent?
LAWRENCE: I am the best candidate for this position for several reasons. The first is that I understand life on both sides of 8 Mile (Road), having been born and raised in Detroit and graduating from Pershing High School and buying my first home there. I have lived in Oakland County for the past 25 years and have been an elected official 20 years, 11 as mayor of Southfield, earlier as a school board member and before that as a city councilwoman.
I will be able to connect the dots between local and federal government. I have lobbied congress, for the the bridge loan to save the auto industry and on assistance for cities for the foreclosure crisis. The 14th District is a diverse group of cities all with different challenges and some in crisis. I understand what will actually help the communities in crisis and what will help keep the stronger communities strong. It is a failure of the current U.S. representatives that Detroit and Pontiac have had to return money back to the federal government that they qualified for because they could not get the paperwork right. My congressional office will not allow that to happen on my watch.
On a little more personal note, 51 percent of the population is women, yet women are only 17 percent of Congress and that number will decline after this year’s elections for the first time in 30 years. As a woman qualified for this position, I stand on the shoulders of the women that have gone down this path before to create this opportunity for me. We are doing a disservice to our mothers and grandmothers that fought for the rights we have if we allow them to be cut back with our a challenge. When a woman sits at the table, the conversation changes.