Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D)
Elected: 2002, term expires Jan. 2011, 2nd term.
Born: Feb. 5, 1959, Vancouver, BC .
Education: U. of CA, B.A. 1984, Harvard U., J.D. 1987.
Family: Married (Daniel Mulhern); 3 children.
Elected office: MI atty. gen., 1998-2002.
Professional Career: Prosecutor, U.S. Atty.'s Office, 1991-94; Corporation Cnsl., Wayne Cnty. exec., 1994-98.
Democrat Jennifer Granholm was elected governor of Michigan in 2002 and 2006. She was born in British Columbia, a Canadian citizen (and so is not eligible for the presidency), and moved to California at age 4, when her father, a bank-branch manager, was transferred there. In the 1960s, she lived in Anaheim, where she could watch the fireworks over Disneyland, and then in San Jose and San Carlos, a middle-class suburb on the peninsula south of San Francisco. She was a popular student in San Carlos High School and won the Miss San Carlos beauty and talent pageant. At age 18, she became a U.S. citizen. That year, she also moved to Los Angeles to try her luck as an actress, even though her parents wanted her to be the first in the family to graduate from college. She successfully completed the program at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, but never got a major part in a film, though she once was a contestant on the television show The Dating Game. She made her living taking delivery complaints for the Los Angeles Times and as a tour guide at Universal Studios and at Marine World Africa USA, where she piloted tourist boats. She returned to San Carlos and in 1980 started her studies at the University of California at Berkeley. In 1984, she went off to Harvard Law School, where she demonstrated in favor of disinvestment in South Africa and edited the Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review. While in Cambridge, she met her husband, Dan Mulhern, from Inkster, Mich., a suburb near Detroit’s Metro Airport, and after she completed law school, they moved to Michigan.
|Jennifer Granholm (D)||2,142,513||(56%)|
|Dick DeVos (R)||1,608,086||(42%)|
|Jennifer Granholm (D)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2002 (51%)
Granholm clerked for federal appeals court Judge Damon Keith, then got a job in the U.S. attorney’s office in Detroit. In 1994, she got what turned out to be her great political break when she was appointed corporation counsel to Wayne County Executive Ed McNamara, a man of impressive political skill (the new terminal at Detroit’s Metro Airport is named after him). In 1998, Frank Kelley, Michigan’s attorney general since January 1962, announced that he was retiring, and McNamara pushed Granholm to run for the office. She won the Democratic nomination at the state party convention in August 1998 and was elected in November—the only Democrat to win statewide, as Republican Gov. John Engler and Secretary of State Candice Miller were re-elected by wide margins. She might not have won if conservatives at the Republican state convention hadn’t nominated a little-known candidate rather than Engler’s choice, Scott Romney, son of former Gov. George Romney and brother of Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who ran for president in 2008.
Suddenly Granholm was the most visible Democrat in Michigan state government and an obvious candidate to succeed Engler in 2002, when he would be barred from running by term limits. She made an attractive candidate: She is articulate, poised, able to connect with an audience, and inclined to strike a note of consensus rather than confrontation. Granholm had serious competition in the Democratic primary from former Gov. Jim Blanchard and Rep. David Bonior. Much of the primary was a battle for endorsements. Bonior was endorsed by the state AFL-CIO and the United Auto Workers—endorsements that in the 1960s or 1970s would have clinched the nomination for him. But Granholm was endorsed in 2002 by the Teamsters and the Michigan Education Association—now at least as important in the state’s Democratic politics. She also was backed by EMILY’s List, the fundraising powerhouse for women candidates that brought in more than $400,000 for Granholm. Blanchard and Bonior decided to take state matching funds and accept a spending limit of $2 million. Granholm rejected the matching funds and raised and spent $5.7 million. Michigan does not have party registration, so voters can vote in either party’s primary. In August 2002, 1.8 million voted, 58% of them in the Democratic primary, which was more seriously contested. Granholm won 48% of the vote, Bonior 28% and Blanchard 24%.
Granholm’s general election opponent, Lt. Gov. Dick Posthumus, was not well-known to voters. A farmer from Grand Rapids’s Kent County with solid conservative credentials, he tried to present himself as a blue-collar candidate. He called for tax cuts and for ending the single business tax. He split with Engler to oppose slant oil drilling under the Great Lakes and school vouchers, which had been beaten in a 2000 referendum. He attacked Granholm for favoring increases in property taxes and for opposing changes in welfare. But he concentrated much of his fire on her out-of-state origins. He portrayed himself as “raised in Michigan” and a product of Michigan public schools. “Let’s just say I’ve got different values than come from Hollywood, Berkeley and Harvard,” he said. But most voters did not seem to care that Granholm grew up somewhere else. She won by a closer than expected 51% to 47%. Only 220,000 Detroiters voted, but they cast more than 92% of their votes for Granholm and accounted for all of her popular-vote margin. Granholm carried Oakland County and suburban Wayne County, but lost Macomb County.
During Granholm’s first term, most of the nation recovered from the 2001 recession, but not Michigan. Job losses continued, as the Big Three auto companies squeezed their subcontractors and still faced serious losses. In her first year, she faced a $3 billion shortfall in a $39 billion budget. Her first budget sliced aid to universities and cities, sold 2,500 state cars, rescinded $220 million in contracts and cut adult education by 70% and arts spending by 50%. More cuts followed in fall 2003, and in 2004 she persuaded the Legislature to raise the cigarette tax 75 cents, though not to replace the expiring estate tax with an inheritance tax. She cut or froze revenue-sharing grants to local governments by $523 million, got the Legislature to increase the casino tax from 18% to 24%, and put through $600 million in property tax relief for manufacturers moving to Michigan. In spite of her efforts, Michigan continued to lose jobs—the only state to do so in 2005, except for hurricane-ravaged Louisiana and Mississippi. Granholm accelerated spending on new roads and bridges. She welcomed new or expanded facilities by Hino Motors, Hyundai, Nissan, Suzuki, Aisin Seiki, and Toyota, but Michigan still failed to attract big new production plants from foreign automakers. She got the Legislature to raise the minimum wage, raise high school graduation requirements, and adopt her proposal for $4,000 Promise Grants to college students who maintain a 2.5 average their first two years.
Still, Granholm’s job-approval ratings, which had been high her first two years, sagged in 2005 as Michigan’s economy failed to grow. In June 2005, Republican Dick DeVos, son of the co-founder of Amway and president of the company (now called Alticor) until 2002, entered the race for governor. DeVos’s ability to self-finance his campaign nudged others out of the race, and he began a heavy television advertising buy in February 2006. Altogether, he spent $42 million, $35 million of it his own money, while Granholm spent $14 million. He stressed his business experience and offered detailed programs on his website. “We have gone backward while the country has gone forward,” he said. Granholm responded that the blame was misplaced and that “most people who work in the plants know that the shift of jobs to India or China is much more the result of federal policy and these trade agreements. … My tools can do only so much.” Democrats attacked DeVos for his conservative stands on cultural issues, and he attacked Granholm for her veto of a ban on partial-birth abortions. Democrats charged that Amway had moved jobs from Michigan to China and attacked DeVos for sponsoring a school-voucher initiative that lost 69%-31% in 2000. In the August primary, in which voters can choose to vote for either party’s candidate. DeVos won 52% of the votes to Granholm’s 48%. Neither candidate had significant opposition within his/her own party.
Immediately after the primary, she began running ads and also had an online petition calling on President Bush to cap oil company profits. DeVos’s businesslike demeanor contrasted with Granholm’s ebullience in debates. By October 2006, she was leading in the polls and finally won by a solid 56%-42%. Turnout was 3.8 million, up 20% from the 3.1 million in 2002. The biggest increases were mostly in traditionally Republican areas, but it appears that many new Republican voters in 2004 were now voting Democratic. Granholm carried 55 of 83 counties, including many counties that have long voted Republican. Democrats also captured a majority of seats in the state House, but Republicans still held a 21-17 edge in the state Senate.
With Democrats in the majority at least in the House, Granholm in 2007 reached agreement with House and Senate leaders on a business tax to replace the 30-year-old system repealed in 2006. Granholm said the plan called for a tax cut for 70% of in-state businesses, and had provisions allowing new companies to pay lower taxes during their early start-up years. But a budget shortfall of up to $3 billion loomed. She refused to sign a budget extender while negotiations with the Legislature continued on her proposal to increase taxes to close the gap. And in October 2007, state government shut down for four hours, until the Legislature voted for the tax increases. Granholm went on the House floor to corral votes and persuaded two Republicans to vote for the bill. In the Senate, two Republicans defected and Lt. Gov. John Cherry cast the tie-breaking vote. The result was a $1.35 billion tax increase that raised the state income tax from 3.9% to 4.35%, extended the 6% sales tax to 23 new services and, as a sop to Republicans, revised teachers’ health insurance. “This is a solution—not one of celebration, but one of resolve,” Granholm said.
Granholm has pressed several initiatives to try to diversify the state’s economy. She started a 21st Century Jobs Fund and a Venture Michigan Fund, which have put some $100 million into eight investment funds focusing on start-up companies. In 2008, she announced an Invest Michigan program that, with the help of a Business Leadership Council, would invest $300 million in state pension funds to attract small- and medium-sized businesses to Michigan. In 2008, Granholm reached an agreement with the Legislature on the state budget earlier than in 2007, but could not get a deal on a requirement that specific percentages of electricity be produced from renewable sources. The Senate held out for a lower requirement than the House wanted. In June 2008, she vetoed a partial-birth abortion ban and a repeal of the motorcycle-helmet law. Also that month, the state Supreme Court ruled that the 2004 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage also barred public employers from offering health benefits to employees’ same-sex domestic partners.
Democratic Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan and Democratic National Committeewoman Debbie Dingell have long pressed for an early presidential primary in Michigan, and with the agreement of both state parties, Granholm in September 2007 enthusiastically signed a bill setting the primary for Jan. 15, 2008. The Democratic National Committee said the move violated party rules, and most Democratic candidates withdrew their names. But Granholm’s candidate, Hillary Rodham Clinton, kept hers on the ballot, and Granholm campaigned for her, even though the DNC voted in December to deprive Michigan of all of its delegates. “There’s one candidate who said, ‘I’m not going to abandon Michigan, and I’m going to keep my name on the ballot as a statement of how I support Michigan,’” Granholm said of Clinton. Efforts by Democrats to run a do-over primary failed, and the Clinton campaign continued to argue that the Michigan results (as well as those in Florida, which voted January 29) should count. Eventually, in May, the DNC voted to seat half the Michigan delegates, but soon afterward, Barack Obama clinched the nomination.
At the party’s national convention in Denver, Granholm had a prime speaking spot, which she used to champion renewable energy sources. But she had a stickier problem at home—what to do about Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. In 2008, the City Council asked her to remove him, under a provision of state law, for having the city enter into an $8.4 million settlement of a suit brought by three police officers. The settlement gave Kilpatrick custody of his text messages with his chief of staff, but the Detroit Free Press got hold of the messages, which indicated that the Democratic mayor had had a sexual relationship with his top aide. The Wayne County prosecutor brought criminal charges, and on Sept. 3, 2008, Granholm held a hearing in Detroit on the Kilpatrick matter. Soon afterward, he entered a guilty plea with the prosecutor, sparing Granholm the necessity of pursuing his forced removal from office.
Despite this negative publicity, Democrats did well in the fall election. Obama carried the state 57%-41%, just 1% better than Granholm’s victory in 2006. Democrats also increased their majority in the state House to 67-43. Granholm is term-limited, and despite some speculation in the press, she did not receive an appointment in the new Obama administration.