Birmingham School Board Member to Run for State House Seat
Republican Robert Lawrence will be running against County Commissioner Dave Potts in the August primary in his bid for Chuck Moss' seat in the State House.
The race for the 40th District seat in the Michigan House of Representatives just got more interesting.
Robert Lawrence, a Birmingham resident and trustee on the Birmingham Board of Education, announced Wednesday his bid for 40th District's seat in the state House, now occupied by Rep. Chuck Moss (R-Birmingham).
Lawrence, who will run as a Republican, will face County Commissioner Dave Potts (R-Birmingham) in the August primary as they vie for a spot on the Republican ticket.
Due to term limits, Moss must give up his seat at the end of this year, leaving the race wide open for political challengers. The 40th District is composed of Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, Bloomfield Township, Keego Harbor, Sylvan Lake and Orchard Lake Village.
Lawrence, 51, who was re-elected to his third term as a school board trustee last November, has been involved on the board since 2003.
"As a State Representative, I will be guided by the same principles used to preserve Birmingham's educational excellence while trimming millions of non-core costs from the school district's operating budget," Lawrence said in a press release posted on his newly-launched campaign website.
"I will continue to be a champion for K-16 education to ensure Michigan is a state that creates economic growth over a lifetime of career opportunities."
Lawrence, a long-time resident of Birmingham, is the owner of The Lawrence Company, a real estate development consulting business.
Lawrence also serves as the chief financial officer for Michigan Security Network, a Homeland Defense startup business, and is a trustee of the Michigan Liquid Asset Fund Plus (MILAF+), a common law trust created in 1987 to provide professional investment services to Michigan school districts and municipalities.
Lawrence has been married to his wife, Julie Fream, for 16 years and has two children, Jillian, 13, and Ryan, 12, both of whom attend the Birmingham Covington School.
Lawrence earned his undergraduate degree in pre-law and economics, as well as his MBA, from the James Madison College at Michigan State University.
Potts to pour $100,000 in his last campaign
As a Republican, Lawrence will face Potts, who formally announced his candidacy for the state House early last week after months of speculation. Potts noted he will be spending $100,000 of his own money on the campaign.
Potts, a Birmingham-based attorney who has first elected to the Oakland County Commission in 2006, said his run for the state House will be the last of his public service career.
“This will be it for me,” he said. “I have thought about and planned on doing this for a while, and now is really the best time.”
Potts is also emerging from a protracted legal fight against the Democrat-controlled plans to redraw commissioner districts. The Michigan Court of Appeals recently ruled against a lawsuit he and other opponents filed to prevent the elimination of four commissioner seats.
Lawrence said since declaring his candidacy, he's been asked several times about the money Potts is planning to spend on his campaign.
"It doesn't strike me to be financially prudent when your answer to achieve something is to throw a big pile of money at it," he said in an interview Wednesday afternoon.
Candidates say they specialize in numbers, finances
Both Potts and Lawrence name finance as their specialties. Potts, who has served on the Oakland County finance committee, said he would try for positions on the finance and judiciary committees at the state level.
Meanwhile, in an interview with Patch in September 2011, leading up to the November school board election, Lawrence said he has expertise in complex financial issues, particularly when dealing with state finances.
"I'm a numbers guy," he said, noting he believes firmly in ensuring the local business climate stays strong.
Lawrence said he has plans to meet with various groups across the 40th District, introducing himself and his platforms, particularly in those areas where his experience with Birmingham Public Schools may yet be unknown.
Still, Lawrence is adament that his experience with public schools is key to his appeal.
"The objective of any legislator should be to represent its district," he said. "This district holds dear to its heart public and private education."
Though the Birmingham Board of Education has oftentimes expressed concern with educational policy in Lansing — particularly those efforts from the Gov. Rick Snyder and the Republican-controlled legislature —Lawrence said while he doesn't clash with Republican philosophy, he will carry with him an independent voice.
"I don't think I will clash with the educational efforts going on," he said. "I just think they can be better implemented. The objective will be to refine and improve what they're doing."
Lawrence said he's worried Potts will try to paint him as inexperienced in the August primary.
During the November election, Lawrence was re-elected to the school board alongside fellow incumbent Chris Conti. However, Lawrence won just 33 percent of the total vote, beating out the third place challenger, John Connelly, by a little more than 500 votes.
In his last election in November 2010, Potts defeated Democrat Daniel Murray with roughly 70 percent of the vote. He also took the three-way August primary with 55 percent of the vote.
Potts also enters the race with outgoing representative Moss as his campaign manager. In an interview with Patch in early Feburary, Moss commented that there's no real history of "newbies" entering politics in the Birmingham and Bloomfield area.
"It doesn’t hurt to know how the real world works. The citizens are definitely served by having people who know what they’re doing,” Moss said.
However, Lawrence said he's undeterred by this history of political apprenticeship (Potts took Moss's spot on the Oakland County Board of Commissiners; both served on the Birmingham City Commission).
"(Listening to Potts and Moss), it sounds like the district is something you inherit or receive as a gift," Lawrence said. "Or, you buy it with a big pile of money ... That sort of things turns me off. It may be something that turns other people off too."