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As Rep. Brenda Lawrence exits, Rep. Rashida Tlaib eyes new district

Shuffle of Michigan lawmakers follows adoption of new congressional map

Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., will move to run in a new district following the adoption of a new map and the retirement of a colleague.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., will move to run in a new district following the adoption of a new map and the retirement of a colleague. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

After four-term Rep. Brenda Lawrence said she would not seek reelection, her fellow Michigan Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib announced Wednesday that she’s going to move and will run in turf that would have gone to Lawrence in the state’s redrawn maps. 

An independent commission announced new congressional districts for Michigan, which is losing a House seat thanks to the 2020 census, prompting a scramble among the state’s incumbents.  

Tlaib said she will seek reelection in the Detroit-area 12th District, which includes Dearborn, currently the home of Democratic Rep. Debbie Dingell, who has already said she plans to run in the 6th District. 

“After much deliberation with my family, residents, and my team, I am excited to announce that I will be running for re-election in what will now be Michigan’s 12th Congressional District,” Tlaib said Wednesday in a Facebook post. “My team and I are excited to campaign on our values of economic justice + clean air and water, making sure our government is run by the people and not large corporations, and bringing every voice to the table.”

Tlaib, who is in her second term and who quickly gained a reputation as a hard-line progressive in the House, noted that the newly drawn 12th District included about two-thirds of her current constituents in the state’s 13th District. 

Democratic Rep. Brenda Lawrence, the only Black member of the Michigan delegation, said she will not seek reelection in a new district drawn by a state commission. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Lawrence, 67, is the only Black member in Michigan’s congressional delegation. She said Tuesday night that she would call it quits after the 117th Congress, making her the 25th House Democrat to retire or seek another office rather than run again in November. 

“I’m incredibly grateful for the people of Michigan’s 14th Congressional District who have placed their trust and vote in me — in me, just a little Black girl from the east side of Detroit. You made me your congresswoman,” Lawrence said in a video. “It has been a tremendous honor and privilege to be your voice in Congress and to fight for our communities and issues in Washington, D.C., on a national platform.”

Tlaib, 45, was one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress in 2018. She was also the first Muslim woman to serve in the Michigan state legislature.  

Lawrence, in her statement, said that with the “new redistricting map, a new generation of leaders will step up. We need to make sure our elected officials, in Michigan and across this country, look like our communities. It is not lost on me that I’m currently the only Black member of the Michigan Congressional Delegation — in both the U.S. House and Senate. So, whether it’s in the halls of Congress, city halls, or local school boards, representation matters.”

Lawrence and Tlaib may not be the last of Michigan congressional changes. GOP Rep. Fred Upton, who is in his 18th term, has not said for certain whether he will seek another term. 

Lawrence, in her seven years on Capitol Hill, has served on the House Appropriations Committee, the Oversight and Reform panel and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. 

She took up progressive causes to address the poverty and racial disparities in her Detroit-based district and takes a special interest in access to clean and affordable drinking water. In the 116th Congress, she teamed with Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna of California, a fellow Progressive Caucus member, on her signature issue to introduce legislation that would create a trust fund dedicating $35 billion for drinking water and clean water infrastructure improvements across the country.

Lawrence got involved with water infrastructure while advocating for Michigan residents impacted by the Flint water crisis, where the lead-contaminated water supply sparked a national conversation about concentrated poverty and racism.

From her spot on the Oversight and Reform Committee, she called for hearings on Flint and grilled Michigan’s then-Republican governor, Rick Snyder, on why he hadn’t taken action earlier to ensure a safe water supply. In the 115th Congress, Lawrence served on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, where she drew attention to the broader problem of water and sewer systems throughout the United States that needed to be repaired and replaced.

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