Brenda Lawrence’s Political Experience Could be a Disadvantage in Primary Race

Two Democrats use their their inexperience in office as an advantage in their campaign for the 14th District.

Graphic by Melissa Mason


Some supporters of presumed Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump say they are backing him because he is NOT a politician. It’s a philosophy being followed by two candidates for Michigan’s 14th Congressional District as well, heading toward the August primary election. 

Michigan’s 14th Congressional District stretches from Pontiac to Detroit. The first term incumbent Brenda Lawrence is a long time politician in Metro Detroit.

But two of the three candidates challenging her are using their non-political backgrounds to boost their campaigns.

Democrat Terrance Morrison was born into a working class family on Detroit’s east side. He’s served in the military, owned his own business, and is very forthcoming about spending a short time in jail. He says the main thing that qualifies him for Congress is that he is a man of the people.

Bre’Anna Tinsley/WDET

“You can have all the letters behind your name, all the education, you can have all the money in the world. But if you don’t have a heart and you don’t have a willingness to serve the people, I don’t think you should even have the job,” he says. 

Morrison says it’s important to be able to relate to everyone in the district.

“A congress person cannot change everything. A congress person should have to have a voice for all constituents in your district. Not just the privileged not just the influence but all constituents.”

Morrison claims Congresswoman Lawrence is hardly ever seen in the district and has had little impact on it.

“The congresswoman has an office on shoemaker and Conner on the east side. And that is the hardest hit in terms of poverty, employment, education,” Morrison says. “The congresswoman sits on a committee for small businesses and there are no black businesses in that area. And I don’t think she has what it takes to carry out that job.”

Vanessa Moss For Congress

Fellow Democratic Congressional Candidate Vanessa Moss agrees. She’s a lawyer from Detroit with an active background in community service. Moss says she’s served as a board member and president of the Parent Teacher Association at her son’s school. And she touts a history of volunteering in her community.

“I understand how to advocate on people’s behalf. And as a lawyer, you are specially trained because you have to reach across the aisle to try to reach a I believe that with my skill set I will be able to create change,” Moss says. 

Like fellow challenger Morrison, Moss says she firmly believes that even though this is their first time running for office, their everyday work with people in the district has built a strong relationship with the community.

“I’m running an old-fashioned campaign. I’m actually doing door to door. I’ve had people come up to me and say, ‘You know what? I didn’t even know this was my congress person.'”

Moss says some people don’t care for politics, which can cause a disconnect between a representative and their constituents. She says even those who do take an interest have a hard time getting information.

“There is so much red tape to get to where they want to go to get the information they need to get that they just give up,” Moss says. “I think it’s very important that whoever represents the 14th district, it’s important that you know your constituents.”

Not surprisingly, Congresswoman Lawrence disagrees. She says she is home every weekend, engaging with the community. And she says when she’s in Washington, her staff is still in the neighborhoods. Lawrence says anyone who accuses her of not knowing the issues that concern her constituents is mistaken…and she has the record to prove it.

“I have made a commitment as a member of congress that I’m going to work hard,” Lawrence says. “And I hope everyone sees that. From the flint water situation, when it came to the sit-in, when it comes to starting a skilled trade caucus.”

Lawrence says rather than being a drawback, her 25 years of experience as a public servant is a necessity for doing the job properly. She compares it to choosing a surgeon for a major operation.

“I could pick someone who had years of experience versus someone who doesn’t have experience but really wants to do a good job. For me, because it’s personal to me, it has a direct impact on me. I want the person with experience.”

Lawrence says she trusts voters to decide what is best for their district.

The lone Republican running for the House seat, Dr. Howard Klausner, could not be reached for an interview despite repeated attempts.

Michigan’s primary elections are set for August 2nd