Michigan Democrat Rep. Brenda Lawrence On The Tight Race For DNC Chair
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
The Democratic National Committee is voting for a new leader later this morning. It is a tight race, and the top contenders have different visions for the party. We're joined now by Representative Brenda Lawrence who is a Democrat from Detroit. Representative Lawrence, thanks so much for being with us.
BRENDA LAWRENCE: Thank you for having me.
SIMON: You've endorsed Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota. You and Representative Ellison are part of the Progressive Caucus. Do you believe it's important for the Democratic Party to make some effort to win votes from conservatives if you're going to win the Congress, the Senate or the presidency?
LAWRENCE: I think it's very important for us to stay true to who are we - we're Democrats. But in saying that, there are so many different elements of the Democratic Party that is values that are embraced by independents, by even some women who are Republicans - those who feel human rights are extremely important. And right now with the Trump administration, we are looking very attractive to people who traditionally don't consider themselves Democrats. So it's time for us to take advantage of that - be strong in our messaging and inclusive.
SIMON: Why do you say with such confidence you're looking good to people who don't traditionally consider themselves Democrats when not so long ago, you lost an election, I mean, specifically around state of Michigan for the first time to a Republican candidate for president for the first time since 1988?
LAWRENCE: Because, fortunately, the last election was a real wake-up call - some say, a slap in the face for Democrats. We - and that's why this election for our party Democratic chair for the Democratic convention - Democrats is so important. We believed in things that we did not message. To give you an example, jobs and the economy are extremely important to us. But we - for some reason, that didn't - was not translated.
The protection of health care for everyone - we lost that - we lost that debate on explaining and making sure people understood the benefits of the Affordable Health Care Act. Now, since it's been purported to take it away, people are realizing, wait a minute. The Democrats were the ones who fought for us to have this health care. Now the Republicans want to take it away.
SIMON: In the half minute we have left, Representative Lawrence, any concern that this DNC election is going to mirror some divisions that are within the party as you have to begin organizing for 2018 and 2020?
LAWRENCE: No. I'm very excited about Perez and about - as you know, I'm supporting Keith Ellison. He's - he understands the challenge. He's progressive. He is a member of Congress. He understands legislation. Mr. Perez has been involved in the legislature - the administrative part. And both of these gentlemen have demonstrated they understand that our messaging, our...
SIMON: We're out of time.
LAWRENCE: ...Going to the ground level that we have to keep fighting.
SIMON: Representative Lawrence of Michigan, thanks so much.
LAWRENCE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.