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Posted on Fri, Aug 27, 2010 : 2:14 p.m.

Virg Bernero picks Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence as gubernatorial running mate

By Ryan J. Stanton

Democratic sources have leaked the news that Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence is Virg Bernero's choice for lieutenant governor.

Bernero, a former state lawmaker and current Lansing mayor, is expected to make the announcement official at a 9:30 a.m. news conference Saturday at Cobo Hall in Detroit, during the first day of the Michigan Democratic Party Nominating Convention.

Virg Bernero 082610.jpg

Virg Bernero

Bernero's campaign isn't confirming the choice, but other sources told both the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press that of the five or six candidates Bernero interviewed, Lawrence was the choice.

Lawrence, who grew up in Detroit, has been Southfield’s mayor since 2001. She ran for Oakland County executive against incumbent L. Brooks Patterson and lost by a 58-41 margin.

She served on the Southfield School Board from 1992 through 1996, working her way up to school board president. She is the first black and first female mayor of Southfield.

The addition of a black female brings diversity to Bernero's campaign, along with additional political clout in Southeast Michigan. Bernero previously stated he was considering state Rep. Alma Wheeler Smith, D-Salem Township, another black female who would have brought extensive legislative experience.

Detroit City Council President Pro-Tem Gary Brown and Wayne State University Vice President Harvey Hollins also were among a long list of rumored hopefuls for the job.

Conan Smith, chairman of the Ann Arbor Democratic Party and head of the Ferndale-based Michigan Suburbs Alliance, said Lawrence will make a great lieutenant governor. She served on the board of the Suburbs Alliance up until last year and was one of its founding members.

"She's very dynamic, she's very dedicated — she's a strong black woman in Southeast Michigan," he said. "She's a role model for a lot of this community and, as a mayor, she has been one of those people who likes to be on the cutting edge of important things like regionalism and metropolitan policy."

Conan Smith said he was, of course, disappointed that Bernero did not select his mother, Alma Wheeler Smith. She interviewed for the job in Lansing on Monday.

Conan Smith, a Washtenaw County commissioner, said the only thing he worries about with Lawrence's selection is that she lacks legislative experience, and the lieutenant governor is in charge of presiding over the state Senate. With so much dysfunction in Lansing right now, he said, the state needs experienced hands at the helm.

"So I worry about that a little bit," Conan Smith said, otherwise describing Lawrence as hard-working and policy savvy.

Immediately following this weekend’s convention, Bernero and his lieutenant governor nominee are going to take their “Fighting for Main Street Tour” on the road across the state, the campaign said today.

Bernero is expected to talk about his agenda to put middle-class families first and get Michigan working again. The campaign said he also will discuss his record as mayor of Lansing.

It's likely Lawrence also will talk about her record as mayor of Southfield, a city with a population of over 78,000 residents, a city budget of $143 million and 833 city employees.

The first leg of Bernero's tour next week includes stops in Flint, Bay City, Battle Creek, Grand Rapids, Royal Oak, Detroit and Lansing. Bernero will visit northern Michigan, the Upper Peninsula, and additional lower Michigan locations in the coming weeks, the campaign said.

“For too long, leaders at the state capitol have been unwilling or unable to create policies that actually make a difference in the lives of most Michiganders,” Bernero said in a statement. “We need to fight for people and small businesses on Main Street and make their voices heard. That's what my Main Street Agenda is all about."

Bernero's opponent in the November election, Republican Rick Snyder, announced state Rep. Brian Calley, R-Portland, as his choice for lieutenant governor earlier this week. The two appeared together during a town hall meeting at Washtenaw Community College on Thursday.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529.



Sun, Aug 29, 2010 : 3:32 p.m.

Wow, the dems have conceded the election.

mike from saline

Sun, Aug 29, 2010 : 12:39 p.m.

@ briegle, once again, what are you talking about? Calley?? Don't know anything about him.....why do you ask?


Sun, Aug 29, 2010 : 7:20 a.m.

why so much emphasis on her race and her "firsts" (real and potential)? she sounds like she has many good qualifications without race/diversity having to be constantly brought up.

David Briegel

Sat, Aug 28, 2010 : 9:47 p.m.

And those people who are against discrimination only against white people hate that don't they Mike? Equality, indeed!!! Tell us what you "know" about Calley, please!


Sat, Aug 28, 2010 : 12:42 p.m.

Here is the interview n question: GIBSON: What insight into Russian actions particularly in the last couple of weeks, does the proximity of this state give you? PALIN: They're our next door neighbors. And you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska. No, she did not say SHE could see Russia from her place, but she did NOT answer the question asked, she quipped. Quipping appears to be her best skill. Comparing a 3 term mayor who received 78% of the vote last run to a 1/2 term governor without policy positions does seem to be akin to comparing apples to wombats. Picking a pro-business mayor looks like a good choice. How does the guy running a "govt out of the way" campaign go against a government that has attracted businesses? Could actually turn into a race. ---- A comment was made that "democrats have had their chance". An interesting comment, considering that in the last 30 years republicans have had more governors of Michigan than the dems, and have controlled congress far more than have dems, including most of the last decade under Granholm. But, again, let us not let stereotypes and myths get in the way of our voting preferences!

David Briegel

Sat, Aug 28, 2010 : 11:11 a.m.

Good choice and some excellent posts here. I still find it amazing how the people who hate govt want to make choices for women. Who see no difference in the case of incest and rape and who care little for that zygote/fetus/innocent baby once they are born.


Sat, Aug 28, 2010 : 9:41 a.m.

I agree. Virg Bernero's choice of Mayor Lawrence is excellent. Those comments by Crain's will be helpful in the campaign and Mayor Lawrence will connect with people throughout Michigan. Unfortunately for Snyder, choosing a running mate (a heartbeat away from becoming governor) who wants a rape victim to be punished further for at least nine months and possibly suffer more complications from being a crime victim won't go over well with most in Michigan. Snyder lost his attempt to placate moderate Republicans and independents when he endorsed an extreme position that doesn't allow exceptions for rape and incest. Snyder has told us that it's okay for a 14 year old incest victim to be pregnant with her father's sperm and to have to deal with it even though it's additional child abuse and poses physical harm to the victim. I have no problems with marriage between people of different races. However, I wonder if some conservatives will be annoyed by the specter of a woman being forced to carry the baby of a rapist of another race. Will people who don't support abortion under any conditions also deny quick access to the morning after pill? What is the record of people who deny the morning after pill in adopting unwanted children? It looks like multi-generational child abuse. Snyder has chosen a running mate who makes Snyder look extreme compared to the men he defeated in the primary. I like Virg Bernero's choice.

Ryan J. Stanton

Sat, Aug 28, 2010 : 9:15 a.m.

For those interested, there's a bio on Brenda Lawrence on Southfield's website.


Sat, Aug 28, 2010 : 9:06 a.m.

Great choice. Ms Lawrence ha an excellent reputation as a middle of the road opposed to Calley who is an extremist. Sanity prevailed with the Democratic choice....not appeasing the extremists as the Repubs did.

Ryan J. Stanton

Sat, Aug 28, 2010 : 9:01 a.m.

From a press release this morning from the campaign: Lawrence, currently the mayor of Southfield, joined Bernero at a morning news conference during the first day of the Michigan Democratic Party Nominating Convention at Cobo Center in Detroit. Mayor Lawrence shares my passion for fighting for working people and small business owners on Main Street, said Bernero. Her success creating jobs and balancing budgets has earned praise from across the state and country. Most impressive to me is how well Brenda listens to the people she serves, because thats exactly the type of leadership we need at the State Capitol. Bernero and Lawrence worked together as part of the national Mayors Automotive Coalition (MAC) which Bernero founded and traveled with him to Washington, D.C. to fight to win bridge loans for Michigans auto companies. Ive seen Virg in action fighting for Michigan and Im honored to stand with him now, said Lawrence. We will stand up to the special interests that have held back our businesses and hard-working families for too long. Mayor Bernero and I have brought economic development to our cities and we will do the same for Michigan. Mayor Lawrence, in her third term as the first woman and African American mayor of Southfield, has earned national and regional acclaim for her leadership ability. Esquire Magazine named her one of Americas hardest-working mayors. She was also declared one of Southeast Michigans most influential women by Crains Detroit Business. The Detroit News said Lawrence possesses the sort of thinking that voters should want. Brenda Lawrence has been the mayor of Southfield since 2001, when she defeated 28-year veteran Donald Fracassi. She won her third term last year with 78 percent of the vote. If successful in this election, Mayor Lawrence will be the first African American woman to serve in one of Michigans top two executive positions. Lawrence has been married to her husband McArthur for more than 30 years. She has two grown children and a grandchild.


Sat, Aug 28, 2010 : 8:58 a.m.

Yes Ghost, it really is amazing what VPs or the candidates say. Joe Biden is incredible. My favorite is this Biden quote: "In Delaware, the largest portion of the population is Indian-Americans," said Biden. "You cannot go to a 7-11 or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent.... I'm not joking." Maybe the MI Gov candidates should look for similar candidates, who try to offend and amuse us all!! (Although Biden says this isn't a joke...)


Sat, Aug 28, 2010 : 8:23 a.m.

Dan H believes that I am female because he thinks only women are concerned about defending women's rights. I hope that he is wrong because the preservation of women's rights effects every man's wife and daughters. Women's rights include access to contraceptives and broad-base sex education which effects society in general by, for instance, preventing unwanted pregnancies especially among teenagers. STDs, particularly AIDS, can be devastating and is preventable with education. Abstinence works, of course, for the few who are disciplined enough to adhere but has not effectively reduced the frequency of unwanted pregnancies and STDs. As a retired MALE physician unwanted pregnancies and STDs were, unfortunately, part of my practice (though I never sent a patient for an abortion). I have seen too many lives disrupted and sometimes destroyed to remain dispassionate when women's rights are threatened.


Sat, Aug 28, 2010 : 8:22 a.m.

David: Just for the record, Sarah Palin did not say she could she Russia from her house, Tina Fey did. Many people mix up the comedienne with the politician. Sarah Palin said about Russia: "They're our next door neighbors and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska." It is hard to believe that Bernero picked a Mayor who lost so badly in her most recent race.


Sat, Aug 28, 2010 : 7:35 a.m.

@STUNSHIF- Who, never heard of her. Had you ever heard of Rep Calley prior to Tuesday? If so, what did you know about his record?


Sat, Aug 28, 2010 : 7:23 a.m.

@DANH- she thinks it should be illegal for pro-choicers to vote for Rick, which is typical liberal thinking. Can you back up this claim? ONe: that she really thinks it should be "illegal"...Two: that this is "typical liberal thinking"? See, I have been called a "typical" liberal on these pages, but I would never say it should be illegal for anyone to vote for whom they wish. Or, are just projecting your narrow views onto a large group of people in order to make yourself "feel" better about political opponents? I have noticed a large segment of posters here, and on other blogs, making grandiose statements about liberals that have little relation to reality or the views held by opponents of the posters. Don't you think our republic would run better if we worried about reality instead of making things up in order to make ourselves hate each other? Don't you think it would work better if we didn't have "death camps", "anchor babies" and "socialist dictators" and other fear mongering myths running the airwaves and instead we actually addressed REAL problems? Don't you think stereotypes make for poor political results?

David Cahill

Sat, Aug 28, 2010 : 7:07 a.m.

What Speechless said. A good choice!


Fri, Aug 27, 2010 : 11:20 p.m.

@ David Breigel, "This woman has more and better experience than Palin even though she can't see Russia". First off, you don't even know her name( This women) or you would quote it. And secondly, why do you always have to bring up Sarah Palin?

Dan H

Fri, Aug 27, 2010 : 10:21 p.m.

Don't take Virg's loss for granted no matter how far the polls say he's trailing. Make sure you actually vote for Rick in Nov. I'm going to round up everyone I know and carpool them myself if I have to get some Rick votes in. I'll throw in some pro-choice people for good measure just for big liberal Veracity since she thinks it should be illegal for pro-choicers to vote for Rick, which is typical liberal thinking.

David Briegel

Fri, Aug 27, 2010 : 8:57 p.m.

Speechless and Ghost are correct. ' This woman has more and better experience than Palin even though she can't see Russia. Oakland County has a larger population than Alaska!! She works well with others and demonstrates leadership skills. And she didn't quit after half a term!!


Fri, Aug 27, 2010 : 8:19 p.m.

As mentioned in the article, Brenda Lawrence hasn't previously been an elected official in the state legislature, unlike Alma Wheeler Smith. What she does have is close to 20 years combined experience in Southfield as a school board member, city council member, and mayor. Two years ago she ran for Oakland County Executive, where challenging the long-time incumbent, L. Brooks Patterson, is roughly the political equivalent of taking on John Hieftje here in tree town, except over a much larger area. What's also well worth noting is that prior to her current nine-year stint as mayor, she quickly rose to leadership positions during her time on both city council and the school board. While mayor, Lawrence has represented her city, as well as other mayors, on the regional level and in Washington before Congress, where she testified about the mortgage and auto industry crises. My armchair guess is that, compared to other potential running mates, Lawrence is a skilled, experienced civic manager and political campaigner who's long accustomed to public appearances and talking with the media. At this, she should do better than Granholm did years back. It would also seem possible that she and Virg Bernero previously worked together in the context of city coalitions and conferences within the southeast region of the state.


Fri, Aug 27, 2010 : 4:48 p.m.

Come on Ed at least gives us a Sarah Palin comparison. And we'll leave the light on for ya.

Top Cat

Fri, Aug 27, 2010 : 3:30 p.m.

Mr. Bernero really needed a Hail Mary and Ms. Lawrence is not it.


Fri, Aug 27, 2010 : 3:25 p.m.

Who, never heard of her. I think the democrat party picked her for Virg. They know they are going to lose, so lose big! These two are the "sacraficial lambs" given up by the party to die at the alter. Virg should have chosen Ron Gettelfinger, at least he would have had some name recognition and a "one-two" punch to grab all the union vote. Gonna love watching them get their behind kicked in a couple months. Poll today has em down 22% to the Rickster. As Gleason used to say, " how sweet it is"!


Fri, Aug 27, 2010 : 1:58 p.m.

This choice will not go over well with the Starbucks crowd at State & Liberty.