Recently, the days have been extremely active for Florida A&M alumus Al Lawson Jr. The 61-year-old Florida senator is serving his last term in the Florida Senate. But more importantly, Lawson is gearing up for a bid at Congress, challenging incumbent Allen Boyd.
Lawson declared his candidacy in June of this year. Since then, he has been at work collecting signatures to qualify by petition.
“I don’t have to pay a stiff qualifying fee and at the same time, I get the opportunity to communicate with a lot of people,” Lawson said.
He has until April 2010 to collect the required 6,000 signatures.
“The way things are going, I’ll probably meet the deadline by the end of the month,” Lawson said.
Lawson currently represents Florida’s 6th District and is the Democratic minority leader in the Senate. He is also an important figure of service to his community and alma mater.
“I’ve had a history over the last 27 years working with not only the university, but people throughout the district,” Lawson said. “I think that over the years FAMU has really benefited from me having the opportunity to serve.”
The local community and university alike are cognizant of Lawson’s service.
“Certainly Sen. Lawson has been a champion for the university and a person who has represented and looked out for the interest of FAMU,” said David Jackson, Ph.D.
Jackson, who is a professor and chairman of the history department of FAMU, said that Lawson has been a strong force for FAMU.
“Certainly when FAMU has been given a bad hand, we knew for sure that we had a voice in the Senate and previously in the House with Al Lawson being there,” Jackson said.
Lawson’s present term in the Florida Senate will expire next year, but he longs to continue his service in the U.S. Congress.
“If I am elected to Congress, I think I would be able to provide a level of service that can put the university and surrounding community in better touch with programs that would really help the constituency in the [Leon County] area,” Lawson said.
Jackson also said that representation like Lawson is essential in U.S. Congress.
“The other day I was reading about how funds that have been allocated for HBCUs are going to be cut after this year. We need people in Congress who are going to stand up for HBCUs and champion the interests of our institutions,” Jackson said.
Aside from being a 1970 graduate of FAMU, Lawson said he is able to do much for the university because of the connection he’s had with university leadership.
“I have a very good relationship with Dr. Ammons,” Lawson said. “It has been a real privilege to work with him and to see the kind of progress that the university has made under his leadership.”
FAMU President James H. Ammons has a mutual respect for Lawson.
“Senator Lawson has been an extremely effective public servant who has always put the needs of his constituents first,” Ammons said. “He has been a great asset for this university and all the citizens of Florida.”
Lawson is mindful of the major issues affecting the community at large.
“There are 126,000 people in this district that really don’t have health insurance,” Lawson said.
According to his official government Web site, Sen. Lawson is part of the Health Regulation Committee.
“He has demonstrated laser like focus on understanding the policy issues before him and their effects on everyday Floridians,” said Ammons about Lawson. “I am amazed at how adept he is on all the issues.”
Ammons said that the university has a supporter in both Lawson and the incumbent, Allen Boyd.
“Congressman Boyd is a great friend of FAMU and he is an extremely effective advocate for FAMU,” Ammons said.
Lawson credits his experiences at FAMU with helping him become the individual that he is today.
“Without the institution, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” Lawson said. “I’ve clearly recognized that and have always been very thankful and appreciative of the fact that I’ve been molded by FAMU.”
Lawson not only attended college at FAMU, but he is a native of the Leon County area, which is why he has been able to have a good bond with the local community.
“He’s a hometown boy who’s connected to this area, and I think that would help to shape his attitudes and ideas and the issues that he would champion for this community,” Jackson said.
No matter the outcome of his campaign for the U.S. Congress, Lawson says that he will continue to serve the community and university.
“I don’t think I can ever stop giving back whether I’m in an elected office or not,” Lawson said. “I’ll be out there charging ahead to keep FAMU as an autonomous institution of higher learning.”