July 10, 2014 at 7:42 am

Political Insider: In Democratic primary fight, Republican becomes a target

Brenda Lawrence is distributing a campaign flier that calls her the anti-L. Brooks Patterson, Oakland County executive. (Lawrence campaign flier)

Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence is trying to raise her profile in the contested Democratic primary for the 14th Congressional District by dragging a Republican into the fray.

A two-page campaign flier portrays Lawrence as the “anti-Brooks” — a poke at longtime Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, who said Wednesday the flier is like playing a “reverse race card.”

A handbill shows a March cover story about Lawrence from Detroit-based BLAC (Black Life, Arts & Culture) magazine titled “The ANTI-BROOKS” with an article excerpt: “In many ways, she is the Anti-Brooks. Sure she’s made her mark in Oakland County, but she also has affection and respect for Detroit proper (bold on flier).”

The flier says she is an “experienced leader fighting for Detroit.”

Patterson, a Republican who defeated Lawrence in the 2008 executive’s election, got in trouble in January when a New Yorker article quoted him as saying he used to tell his children they didn’t need to go to Detroit for most things except live sporting events in part because the city was dangerous. He was criticized by many Democratic politicians and later expressed “regret that something I said 30 years ago is causing such consternation today.”

Lawrence campaign spokesman Greg Bowens said the flier is aimed at appealing to hard-core Democratic primary voters and showing Lawrence as a unifier in a district that winds through parts of the county and city. Lawrence’s opponents to replace U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, are former Congressman Hansen Clarke of Detroit, state Rep. Rudy Hobbs of Southfield, who has received many labor endorsements, and Burgess Foster of Detroit.

“She is quick to jump up and say: He does not represent all of us in Oakland County,” Bowens said about Patterson, while adding that Lawrence and Patterson — while “rarely seeing eye to eye” — have worked together on jobs and roads issues involving Southfield.

Lawrence also is endorsed by Emily’s List, the group that endorses pro-choice Democratic women for Congress.

Patterson, who graduated from high school and college in Detroit, said he considers the flier a cheap stunt since he also has “affection and respect” for Detroit and the region. “It is a reverse race card being played in this campaign,” he said.

He ticked off some of his pro-Detroit achievements, including support for a Regional Transit Authority as well as a regional authority for Cobo Center that improved the facility and cleaned up corrupt contracts. He said he has worked with Detroit mayors since Dennis Archer in the early 1990s to clean and improve the city.

Patterson press secretary Bill Mullan noted Patterson in October 2012, while recuperating from serious car accident injuries, successfully pressured the Michigan Republican Party to pull a cable TV ad that criticized Detroit while promoting Oakland County’s GOP because it was unnecessarily negative.

Bowens expressed shock Wednesday at the “reverse race card” accusation. “The truth is that Brooks Patterson long ago cornered the market on marking racial barbs,” he said.

Patterson bemoaned his situation with a typical analogy: “I’m trying to escape the bonds of the role of the Detroit basher. But it’s like the mafia: You can’t get out.”

The Detroit News