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Lawrence running for House Democratic leadership post

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

Michigan U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence is making a run for the Democratic leadership this week, seeking to represent the newest members of the House as part of her party's leadership team.

The Southfield Democrat has competition for the post with two freshmen also in the running — Reps. Jason Crow of Colorado and Colin Allred of Texas, who co-chaired the freshman Democratic class with Rep. Haley Stevens, D-Rochester Hills. 

U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence speaks at a news conference at the Southfield Post Office on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020.

In the position, Lawrence would be the liaison between the leadership team and junior members of the caucus who have served in the House for five terms or fewer. If elected, Lawrence would also be part of the powerful Steering and Policy Committee, which determines committee assignments for Democrats.

"It’s really a powerful position considering that it’s representing like 130 members out of the caucus — the majority of the diversity is in this caucus," Lawrence said, noting she's been very active as co-chair of the bipartisan Women's Caucus and serves on the board of the Congressional Black Caucus. 

"People always talk about the progressives, the New Dems, the Blue Dogs, the Squad — the majority of them are all in this class group."

Lawrence said she has been going before each of the special-interest Democratic caucuses to make her pitch.

She aims to help newer members navigate committee assignments and hone best practices for hiring staff, passing legislation and developing strong constituent services, she said. 

"It’s so drastic. When you come in as a freshman, all eyes are on you, everyone's trying to help, and there’s built-in systems for guiding the freshman but after that first term you’re on your own," Lawrence said.

"It's almost like being the middle child. The oldest know their way around the block, the younger ones get all the attention. And then the middle child is kind of in the middle. So I use that analogy of why we need this position."

Lawrence also acknowledged that House Democrats will be doing some soul searching after a poorer than expected showing in the Nov. 3 election, where they lost at least seven seats while maintaining their majority. Centrists and progressives have been arguing over how Democrats should govern going forward.

"After an election like this, you do a lot of assessment of where we are, what we did right and what we did wrong because we certainly didn’t win as many seats as we wanted. It's not as bad as 2010, to put it in perspective," Lawrence said. 

"We’ll work through that as a caucus. I don’t see it as a negative. People are just very emotional right now."

The House Democrats' internal elections are set to take place virtually Wednesday and Thursday.   

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell of Dearborn is running for reelection to serve another term as one of four co-chairs of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, which oversees the caucus’ policy agenda and communications strategy.

Also running for reelection for the committee are Reps. Ted Lieu of California and Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania.

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township, is expected to serve again as chief deputy whip for the House Democrats. Dingell also serves on the whip team. 

mburke@detroitnews.com