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Will the 16th Congressional District Send an Engineer to Congress?

By Mary Keon


“Entrepreneurship is a life-skill that every student will need in the 21st Century.”
                                                                                    –Derickson K. Lawrence

Entrepreneur Derickson K. Lawrence hopes the 2016 election will be a transformative moment where voters from both sides of the aisle will form a coalition to elect him to represent New York’s 16th Congressional District based upon his message of “making a difference by advocating small business growth.” An enrolled Democrat, he is running on line 6I (People’s Choice) as an independent candidate and 28-year incumbent Elliot Engel’s (D) only challenger.

The 16th Congressional District runs from Co-op City to Rye and Riverdale to Hastings encompassing several of Westchester’s wealthiest communities as well as some of the poorest neighborhoods in both the Bronx and Westchester. Citing the very low national approval rating of Congress (12.8% –Real Clear Politics, Aug. 26-Sept. 19th; 18% according to Gallup Aug. 3-7, 2016), Lawrence believes that he will bring to Washington a fresh perspective on key issues that are important to voters. “I am not wedded to ideology or dogma, rather, I rely upon looking at issues and bringing practical solutions to solve the problem,” he said in a recent telephone interview.  

In 1999 Lawrence recorded a state-wide multi-media message on hate crimes as a public service announcement along with the late actor Ossie Davis and the Journal News. When New York became the 45th state to endorse anti-hate crime legislation, the following year, he realized that “you can beat the odds by building coalitions.”

When “one door closes, I do not wait for the new one to open, I just build a new door,” he said, and created his own line for Election 2016, gathering 5,414 signatures on his petitions. He hopes to appeal to Republicans who are looking for candidate who can deliver solutions and his positions on many issues is likely to resonate with them.

As Chairman of Westchester County Crime Stoppers, Lawrence helped fight crime by taking guns off the streets. Though an advocate of tough, sensible gun legislation, he states he does not wish to diminish Second Amendment rights.

Lawrence advocates policies that target social problems by empowering individuals to succeed through investment in education and fostering entrepreneurship. “Attracting capital investment to under-served communities where funds can “foster the engine of entrepreneurship and incubate small businesses” is the solution to lifting the local economy,” he says, an initiative he has already implemented here. In 2015, Lawrence founded MYB $eed Bank – a fund that raises capital to help small businesses grow. “New pathways are needed to help our students become job creators,” according to Lawrence. “Entrepreneurship is a life-skill that every student will need in the 21st Century.”

His other policy positions include: a pledge to “fight for higher paying jobs; lowering our student debt-burden; a secure border, sensible immigration reform with a solid path to citizenship; paid leave and closing the pay gap for women; championing seniors, veterans, working families, and a strong national defense –engaging war only as a last resort.

Lawrence advocates “full disclosure on product and food contents to allow consumers to make informed decisions on what they purchase and what they consume.” He will support legislation that will ensure GMO products are labelled appropriately.

Incarceration for low level offenders is counter-productive, says Lawrence, and it comes at a high price tag: “$80 billion, –$40-$60K per inmate that could be better spent on tuition at a reputable college. He points out that many of the country’s 2.3 million federal inmates may have mental health and addiction challenges and can be better served by treatment at a far lower cost. 

“The incumbent voted for mandatory minimums and “three strikes you’re out” (1990’s Crime Bill) contributing to our nation’s problems of mass incarcerations. On day one, I will take steps to repeal that,” he said.

Lawrence emigrated to the U. S. from the Caribbean island of Dominica at the age of 13. He is a Howard University Electrical Engineer who holds an MBA in International Finance from the Zicklin School of Business at Baruch, CUNY and did post-graduate work at Columbia’s Mergers and Acquisitions program. He is married and has 2 grown daughters   as well as a 6-year old son.

For the past 30 years Lawrence has worked as a banking executive and as a management consultant to firms such as KPMG and the Gartner Group, where he helped lead Fortune 500 companies. Lawrence is currently working on three business ventures, two in the U. S and one that extends to Europe and Asia.

Locally, Lawrence has had a leadership role in shaping the review of Westchester’s $1.7billion budget, the capital plan, ethics and personnel policies as a member of the 21 -person Charter Revision Commission (2011-2013) where he served as Co-Vice Chair. In 2014, Lawrence led the Southern Westchester Tax-Cap Forum.

He believes that “A sane and nuanced foreign policy agenda will not only relegate war as an important but last resort, it will allow us to focus more of our resources on the domestic economic interest of some 320 million Americans.”

Lawrence, who has a background developing missile systems technology for Hughes Aircraft following graduation from Howard, is one of five candidates who have been endorsed by the NYS chapter of the Peace Action New York State. Representative Clarke, NY-9, Representative Nadler, NY-13, Representative Paul Tonko NY-20 and Zephyr Teachout NY-19 have also been endorsed by Peace Action.

“As an engineer you are trained to solve problems with technology,” he says. Ironically, thirty-five years ago my efforts were geared towards building weapons of mass destruction. Today in a twist of fate, driven by the invisible hand of God, I aspire to solve problems of international conflict not with bombs, but with peace through a show of strength and diplomacy.

“I am pleased to get the endorsement from the New York State chapter of a national organization, which understands the value of a U.S. foreign policy that prioritizes diplomacy and peace-driven solutions to today’s most entrenched conflicts,” said Lawrence. “I believe our incumbent is out of step with the 16th CD by continuing to promote a Bush-Cheney war mentality in 2016,” he added.

“Derickson K. Lawrence is promoting common sense foreign policy that calls on the U.S. to learn from the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan and remember that we cannot bomb our way to peace,” said Peace Action NY spokesperson Kate Alexander in her statement to the press. “By supporting measures like auditing the pentagon, which accounts for 54% of our annual discretionary budget, Lawrence will hold our military to rigorous standards and ensure that U.S. taxpayers are not writing a blank check for military solutions that are dangerous and ineffective, and even harmful to long-term peace for the U.S. and the world. His support for resettling Syrian refugees shows that Lawrence is aware of the long-term impact of military intervention and escalation, and illustrates that Lawrence would support a U.S. definition of global leadership that promotes common sense foreign policy, peace and human dignity instead of the current endless military intervention. We need a champion for peace in Congress, and that is Derickson K. Lawrence.”

Election 2016 seems to be the year of the non-traditional candidate and Lawrence is hopeful that his pragmatic approaches to long-standing problems will resonate with voters in the 16th Congressional District.