NFL great and Palmetto native Henry Lawrence wants to 'do better' in congressional seat

skennedy@bradenton.comFebruary 5, 2014 

Lawrence

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MANATEE -- Henry Lawrence was among those in the National Football League Players Choir who backed singer Patti LaBelle last week during a Super Bowl gospel celebration aired on "Good Morning America."

Lawrence is used to the Super Bowl. He won three Super Bowl rings during his playing career.

The national TV appearance was also no big deal for Lawrence, 62, Palmetto, who is accustomed to being in the public eye as a two-time All-Pro ofensive lineman during 13 seasons with the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders from 1974-86.

But Lawrence, a Democrat, will take to a different field next fall: He wants to replace incumbent Republican Vern Buchanan in the House of Representatives.

His pitch?

"We need to do better."

Many years ago, Democrats and Republicans worked together to find solutions for the betterment of all, but due to "ridiculous" partisanship, that no longer happens, he said in an interview after he returned to his Palmetto home from Super Bowl festivities in New Jersey.

"We have noticed things that have taken place that should not happen in this country," said Lawrence. "There should be a level of respect for all individuals; the way people treat each other, the disrespect to our president.

"Never before has such disrespect been exhibited as to the president that is in office now," he said. "I think that's inexcusable and should not be tolerated."

Lawrence called the government shutdown over budget issues "foolishness," saying it did not serve taxpayers.

It shows "we don't care about the people in this country," he said.

"We need a change. The people need to speak up, and more people need to step up -- they may not vote for me, but they need to vote," said Lawrence.

Other reasons he is running for his first political office include bringing in more jobs and more job retraining, he said.

He seeks to address the mental health situation, which limits treatment for those who need it, he said.

Lawrence has met Buchanan, and said he found him "very personable." Lawrence said he hopes to be a congressman who's closer to the citizenry though.

That rang a bell with Cornelle Maxfield, president of the Manatee-Sarasota Democratic Black Caucus.

"We haven't had a congressperson who is connected to the constituency in this congressional district for many, many years, and that is what I think he brings," she said. "He brings a connection to this congressional district. He has a direct connection with the folks. He touches peoples' lives very much directly. We don't have that today with congressman Buchanan. He seems to be removed and not acting in the best interest of his constituency."

Asked for comment on Lawrence's candidacy, Buchanan spokeswoman Sally Tibbetts said: "We welcome Henry and (fellow Democratic candidate) Mitch Mallett to the race for their party's nomination."

The candidates are vying to represent Florida's 16th Congressional District, which includes part of Manatee County and all of Sarasota County.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.

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