Remapped 14th Congressional District: Michigan's hottest primary race
By Natasha Dado | Friday, 04.20.2012, 12:00 AM

Democrats square off for a seat in Michigan's remapped 14th Congressional District

The four Democrats competing in the primary election for the 14th district include Congressman Hansen Clarke of Michigan's 13th congressional district, Congressman Gary Peters of Michigan's 9th congressional district, Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence and former state representative Mary Waters.
Candidates opened up to The Arab American News on Western intervention in Syria, their stance on the NDAA, and some of the concerns facing Arab Americans

DETROIT - Michigan lost population over the past decade. As a result redistricting occurred, and the state is preparing to have one less congressional seat. The state legislature is responsible for drawing new maps.

Michigan's newly drawn 14th Congressional district includes a portion of Detroit, the Pointes, Hamtramck, Royal Oak Township, Oak Park, Southfield, Lathrup Village, Farmington Hills, West Bloomfield, Orchard Lake Village, Keego Harbor, Sylvan Lake and Pontiac. The four Democrats competing in the primary election for the 14th district include Congressman Hansen Clarke of Michigan's 13th congressional district, Congressman Gary Peters of Michigan's 9th congressional district, Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence and former state representative Mary Waters.

Currently Democratic U.S. Rep. John Conyers serves the 14th district, and is running in the race for the state's 13th district primary because of the redistricting process.

For decades Clarke has fought for Southeast Michigan. While he has an Ivy League education having graduated from Cornell University, then receiving his law degree from Georgetown University Law Center he's still experienced economic hardships. At one point he was on food stamps and had them stripped away.

Lawrence is the first woman and African American mayor of Southfield, and assumed office in 2001. She was the Democratic nominee for Michigan lieutenant governor during the 2010 election. She earned a bachelor’s degree in public administration from Central Michigan University.

Peters was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2008, and re-elected in 2010. He graduated from Wayne State University Law School.

 For six years Waters served as a state representative. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan.

Western intervention in Syria

Peters supports the Obama administration's efforts to isolate the regime of Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad. He's also spoke to Syrians about the concerns they have for their homeland, and supports providing humanitarian and logistics support to the opposition forces.

A statement released by Clarke's office on the issue reads, "Just as in Libya we offered support without putting a single U.S. troop on theground, we cannot impose the transition to democracy upon Syria." Clarke is concerned about the ongoing unrest in Syria, and hopes coalition forces between the U.S. and its allies can work together to support the people of Syria and their quest for democracy. He urged the president to help Syrians through increased and targeted sanctions against the ruling government, and supports the president working with other members of the international community to determine the bestcourse of action to help people move forward. Clarke's office also worked directly with the state department to return 11-year-old Sara Alouh, a Syrian American girl who went missing following the country's popular uprising.

When it comes to Western intervention in Arab countries Waters says America can't afford to constantly be in a state of war. "We have domestic needs, and other nations need to fill the gap. I am for foreign aid and assistance…Historical memory begs for less direct intervention and more diplomacy. Diplomacy should be preferred over war," she said.

The Congressmen's stance on the National Defense Authorization Act

Both Congressmen 
 and Peters voted against the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Clarke says the NDAA included a series of provisions that mandate military interrogation and detention for any suspected members of Al-Qaeda, and authorize indefinite detention of terrorist suspects, including U.S. citizens seized within the nation's border, without trial. Clarke sees such provisions as a violation of U.S. citizens’ civil rights.  His office goes on to say National security continues to be a priority to Clarke, and he understands that the national security programs renewed under the NDAA are vital, but he couldn't support legislation that violates the rights of citizens it claims to protect. Peters’ concern with the legislation was that it codified the president's ability to order anyone to be detained without charge.

Candidates on their fight to stop discrimination against Arab Americans

Following the tragic events on September 11, 2001, Lawrence took action to protect the significant population of Middle Eastern Americans that reside in Southfield. "I sat with the FBI, and police and said I will not tolerate that in my community," she said. She was invited to Saudi Arabia because of the population of Middle Easterners presiding in her city. Last year Peters opposed U.S. Rep. Peter King's congressional hearings on radical Islam, and describes the hearings as a tactic to generate fear about Muslim Americans. He joined other congressmen in opposing the retail store Lowe’s for pulling their advertisement from TLC's television series, All American Muslim. 

Clarke hosted a forum on the activities of Immigration Custom and Enforcement and Border Patrol agents with Congressman John Conyers to investigate the claims of harassment and racial profiling.  He also signed onto a letter urging the U.S. attorney to request that the Department of Justice revise its June 2003 Guidance Regarding the use of race by federal law enforcement agencies to close several loopholes that permit unlawful profiling.

Mayor Brenda Lawrence knows local government 

Lawrence’s experience as mayor for one of the region’s largest and most important cities will work to her advantage as a congresswoman. She’s in touch with voters and can easily identify the needs of local government.

“I don’t have to have a town hall meeting to know what’s going on,” she said. Lawrence noted that she knows the impact the decisions in Washington have on small government. She was named one of the most influential women in the region by Crain's Detroit Business. Lawrence has managed to deliver a balanced budget without raising taxes or laying off employees. Under her leadership Southfield was one of the few cities to earn an AA-Plus credit rating. Job creation and education are among her top priorities. “I want to make sure our education is not determined by our zip code.” She also plans on concentrating on mass transit to compete with other countries.

Candidates discuss country’s controversial new immigration laws, bills

Congressman Clarke opposes Michigan HB 4305, which is similar to Arizona’s immigration style bill that has sparked national debates. He says Michigan’s bill would create hardship for immigrants and businesses alike. He opposes all efforts to make immigration more difficult. He believes the bill would likely increase state expenditures for costly litigation and increased local law enforcement as well as lost business and revenue due to boycotts of the state. Those likely to be questioned include Latinos, Arabs and Asians according to Clarke. 

Lawrence also opposed Arizona’s immigration law. She says immigrants have made great contributions to the country and Southfield. Lawrence said the city has worked to find ways to make life easier for immigrant residents. She expressed support for the Dream Act too. 

Peters says the need for federal action on immigration reform is emphasized by wrongheaded laws enacted in Arizona and introduced in a number of other states, including Michigan, which require police and some government officials to demand proof of legal status if they have ‘reasonable suspicion” a person may be in the country illegally. Peters says the laws should be rejected; are impractical to enforce, unjust, and potentially unconstitutional.

To open up the discussion on immigration reform, Waters  has a page on her website dedicated to immigration policy, and is currently working with a non-profit to have one of its experts blog regularly on the topic.

Candidates on their relationship with the Arab American community

Lawrence is no stranger to the Arab and Chaldean American community. Her city is home to the Iraq Consulate General's office, and has hosted the annual Chaldean festival for years. "I have been entrenched in the Arab and Chaldean community," Lawrence said.  She's often spotted at Arab American community events, one of the most recent being the ADC's MLK scholarship ceremony.

Peters has maintained a good relationship with Arab American and Chaldean organizations. Agencies such as ACCESS and the ACC have been instrumental in advising Peters when he drafted legislation to assist refugees. In 2011 Peters was an honoree at the ACC Awards gala. He’s met with Hamtramck’s religious leaders from Yemen and has attended meetings and ceremonies at mosques in the area. Peters introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives to provide support for Iraqi refugees and religious minorities in the country that have continuously faced persecution following the 2003 U.S. led invasion. 

Clarke also spoke-out against King's hearings on radical Islam telling the story of his Muslim father whose faith helped shaped the man he is today. When he was once delivering a passionate speech at a rally he said his father was an undocumented worker. During a conference on immigration he said he was working on legislation to introduce a bill that makes it easier for immigrants to settle in the United States if they are willing to invest and create jobs in Detroit.  

How you can vote...
The state’s primary election is August 7, and the general election is Nov. 6. The last day to register to vote for the primary is July 9, and Oct. 9 is the deadline for registering to vote in general election.  

To register to vote you must be a U.S. citizen; 18 years old; a resident of Michigan and the city or township you are applying to vote in.  Residents can register to vote by mail; at their county, city, or township clerk's office or at a Secretary of State branch office. A mail in voter registration form is available on the Secretary of State's website.

By Natasha Dado

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