Rep. Lawrence to Retire;
Open US House Seats Now Up to 44

By Jim Ellis

Four-term Michigan US Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Southfield)

Jan. 7, 2022 — Four-term Michigan US Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Southfield) became the latest Democratic incumbent to announce her retirement. She is the 25th Dem to not seek re-election as compared to 11 Republicans.

Saying, “this is the right time to turn the page and spend more time with my family — my husband, daughter, son and granddaughter — and put them first,” Lawrence made official her decision not to seek a fifth term next year. She is 67 years old. Prior to her election to Congress, Lawrence served as Southfield’s mayor for 14 years. She is the only African American in the Michigan delegation and the lone Wolverine State Democrat to serve on the House Appropriations Committee.

It is speculated upon that the new Michigan map influenced her retirement decision, but Rep. Lawrence said she was confident of being able to be re-elected in the new 12th District. Though her home base of Southfield was included in MI-12, the cities of Dearborn, Westland, and the western part of Wayne County would have, for her, been foreign political turf.

In her closing comments to the Detroit Free Press newspaper, Rep. Lawrence said, “I’m incredibly grateful for the people of Michigan’s 14th Congressional District who have placed their trust in me — in me, a little Black girl from the east side of Detroit.”

The Lawrence decision greatly changes the Detroit area congressional campaigns. Immediately upon Rep. Lawrence announcing her retirement plans, neighboring Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) declared that she will seek re-election in the 12th District, saying that she currently represents more of this CD than the downtown Detroit-anchored MI-13. This leaves the 13th open and will create a major Democratic primary battle. CD-13 is a majority African American district and heavily Democratic, meaning that winning the party primary is tantamount to election in November.

A group of current and former Detroit state legislators announced Wednesday that they are filing a lawsuit against the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, saying the new congressional, state Senate, and state House of Representatives’ boundaries discriminate against black voters, and therefore violate the Voting Rights Act. If the lawsuit successfully overturns the Detroit district draws, new mapping instructions could be forced upon the commission before the 2022 election.

The grand total of House open seats now rises to the total of 44, and it is likely we will see further retirements when other redistricting maps are completed. Still outstanding are the big states of Florida, New York, and Pennsylvania. With candidate filing deadlines beginning later this month and reaching their peak in March, it would not be surprising to soon see further additional announcements.

The open seats are comprised of incumbents not seeking re-election, seven new reapportionment seats transferred from states not keeping pace with population growth, and additional new seats created in redistricting but not directly relating to reapportionment.

Two more seats are vacant, those of the late Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) and resigned Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA). The Florida seat will be filled in special election on Tuesday and will remain a Democratic district. In 2020, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) let stand vacant another Republican seat in the delegation for almost a year. Potential special election candidates in the Fresno area, however, believe the governor will hold an early 2022 election for this seat.

It is likely, however, that the eventual winner will only serve a short time in Congress since Nunes’ current 21st CD boundaries were drastically changed in the new California map. With the present district split four ways, it is conceivable that a special election winner would have nowhere to run in the regular 2022 election, thus limiting the individual’s congressional career to less than a year.

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