Jennifer Granholm, Secretary of Energy. Photo:
Jennifer Granholm, Secretary of Energy. Photo:

Who is Jennifer Granholm?

Jennifer Mulhern Granholm (b. February 5, 1959) is a Canadian-born American politician and the 47th Democratic Governor of Michigan. Granholm became Michigan's first female governor when she was sworn in on January 1, 2003. She succeeded John Engler.

Early Life and Education

Granholm was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, to Shirley Alfreda (née Dowden) and Victor Ivar Granholm, both bank tellers. Granholm's maternal grandparents came from Ireland and Newfoundland, respectively. Her paternal grandmother was an immigrant from Norway and her paternal grandfather, who immigrated to Canada in the 1930s, came from Robertsfors, Sweden, where his father was the mayor. The former Minister for Enterprise and Energy and former Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden, Maud Olofsson, lives in Robertsfors, and when the two met in Sweden, the media revealed that Olofsson's husband is a relative of Granholm.

Granholm's family immigrated to California when she was four years old. She grew up in Anaheim, San Jose, and San Carlos. Granholm attended Ida Price Jr. High and Del Mar High School before graduating from San Carlos High School in 1977 and won the Miss San Carlos beauty pageant. As a young adult she attempted to launch a Hollywood acting career but was unsuccessful and abandoned her efforts at the age of 21. In 1978 she appeared on The Dating Game, and held jobs as a tour guide at Universal Studios and in customer service at the Los Angeles Times and was the first female tour guide at Marine World Africa USA in Redwood City, piloting boats with 25 tourists aboard.

In 1980, at the age of 21 years, she became a naturalized U.S. citizen and worked for John B. Anderson's campaign for President of the United States as an Independent in the 1980 election. She then enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley, the first person in her family to attend college. She was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and graduated in 1984 with a B.A. in Political Science and French. During a year in France, she helped to smuggle clothes and medical supplies to Jewish people in the Soviet Union and became involved in the Anti-Apartheid Movement. She then earned a Juris Doctor degree at Harvard University, also with honors, in 1987. At Harvard Law School, Granholm served as Editor-in-Chief of the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, the leading progressive law journal in the United States.

Early career

After graduating from Harvard Law School, Granholm clerked for Judge Damon Keith, a senior judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, from 1987 to 1988. She also worked for the Michael Dukakis 1988 presidential campaign. After working as an attorney in the Wayne County executive office from 1989 to 1991, she became an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan in 1991. She helped to prosecute drug dealers, gang members and child pornographers, sued the state and fought against credit card fraud. Of the 154 people she tried, 151 were convicted. In 1995 she was appointed to serve as Corporation Counsel for Wayne County, becoming the youngest person to hold the position. She defended the County against lawsuits, sued the state over road taxes and fought to uphold environmental laws.

Political Career

Governor of Michigan (2003-2011)

Granholm was sworn in as the 47th Governor of the state of Michigan on January 1, 2003. The main issue facing the governor has been a massive budget deficit. Granholm had to eliminate upwards of $200 per person from state budget expenditures. She emphasized the need for the state to attract young people and businesses to Michigan. As Governor, she was a member of the National Governors Association and Policy Chairwoman of the Democratic Governors Association. She lived in the official Michigan Governor's Residence located near the Capitol Building.

In 2003, Granholm ran five miles across the Mackinac Bridge, which connects the state's two peninsulas, in 47 minutes during the Mackinac Bridge Walk. Her run began a new tradition, and 2004 saw the first annual Governor’s Labor Day Bridge Run held hours before the Annual Bridge Walk. This time she finished the run in under 45 minutes. After joining her husband Daniel Mulhern for the last two miles of his October 24, 2004 Detroit Free Press/Flagstar Bank Marathon run, Granholm, remarked, "I would love to run a marathon before I'm 50."

Attorney General of Michigan (1999-2002)

Granholm was elected Michigan Attorney General in 1998, defeating the Republican nominee, John Smietanka, 52 percent – 48 percent. She was the first woman to hold that position, serving for four years (1999–2002) and focusing on protecting citizens and consumers, and establishing Michigan's first HighTech Crime Unit. After the September 11, 2001 attacks, Granholm directed state agencies to work with lawmakers in keeping the fight against terrorism within the powers of the state. She also imposed a regulation on gasoline dealers to keep them from raising prices dramatically, something which occurred sporadically across Michigan immediately following the attacks.

2016 presidential elections

In mid-August 2016, Granholm announced her move to the pro-Hillary Clinton presidential super PAC Correct the Record (CTR). Until August, Granholm was the co-chairwoman on the board of the other pro-Hillary Clinton presidential super PAC Priorities USA Action. Granholm's role with CTR is acting as senior advisor. According to The New York Times, the move from Priorities to CTR was initiated by Clinton's campaign; CTR, according to the Times, is "coordinating with the campaign" and Granholm "can act as a surrogate" to Clinton.

Clinton transition team

Photo: Detroit Free Press
Photo: Detroit Free Press

On August 16, 2016, it was reported that Granholm was appointed co-chair of Hillary Clinton's presidential transition team. Other co-chairs of the team include Tom Donilon, former national security advisor, Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress, and Maggie Williams, director of the Institution of Politics at Harvard University.

Noteworthy events

Detroit Mayor felony scandal

In response to a May 14, 2008 resolution by the Detroit City Council to request that Granholm remove Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick from office in response to eight (later ten) felony counts against him, Granholm began an inquiry, which culminated in a removal hearing on September 3, 2008. On September 3, Granholm outlined the legal basis for the hearings. Arguments were made, and three witnesses were called. In the morning of September 4, Kilpatrick agreed to two plea deals, pleading guilty to two counts of perjury and no contest to one count of assaulting and obstructing a police officer in two separate cases. Both of the deals required his resignation. When the hearing reconvened later that day, Granholm stated that the hearing would be adjourned until September 22 as a result of the plea deals.

Nomination for secretary of energy

On December 17, 2020, President-elect Joe Biden (D) announced that he had selected Granholm as his nominee for Secretary of Energy.

In a press release, Biden’s office said, “A two-term Governor of Michigan whose work during and after her tenure has centered on creating clean energy jobs in America, Granholm’s leadership was instrumental in rescuing the U.S. auto industry, saving one million jobs, and preparing Detroit for a clean energy future.”

Running for second terms of Michigan's Governor in 2006

Granholm ran for a second term in the 2006 election. Her opponents were Republican businessman and politician Dick DeVos, Libertarian Gregory Creswell, Green Douglas Campbell, and the Constitution (US Taxpayers) Party candidate Bhagwan Dashairya.

The state's unemployment rate hovered around seven percent for much of her term. Additionally, Michigan ranked #49 in retaining young adults between 2000 and 2005, again attributed to the sluggish economy.

Both the Granholm campaign and the Michigan Democratic Party put out television commercials which focused on her efforts to revive Michigan's economy and accused Dick DeVos of cutting Michigan jobs while he was head of what was then called Amway. (dead link)

Granholm won re-election, defeating DeVos. The margin (rounded to the nearest percent) was 56 percent (Granholm), 42 percent (DeVos), one percent (Gregory Creswell), one percent (Douglas Campbell) and one percent (Bhagwan Dashairya). Granholm polled 4.9 percent higher than she did in her first gubernatorial election in 2002.

In the 2002 election, she defeated former Governor James Blanchard and House Democratic Whip David Bonior in the Democratic primary, and then went on to win the general election against the Republican nominee, Lieutenant Governor Dick Posthumus, to become governor.

Granholm was accused in the 2002 Democratic primary of several allegations of cronyism while working as Wayne County Corporation Counsel.

Her husband, Daniel Mulhern, had received several contracts for his leadership training company shortly after Granholm left her position as a Wayne County Corporation Counsel in 1998. He received nearly $300,000 worth of contracts, despite being the highest bidder for one of those contracts. Opponents criticized Granholm supporters for engaging in cronyism and giving contracts to her husband immediately after leaving county employment. Granholm and her supporters responded that no ethical violations occurred and that Mulhern had earned the contracts on his own merits.

Former Michigan Governor Jim Blanchard and former Representative David Bonior faced Granholm in the Democratic primary and criticized her handling of contracting procedures at Detroit Metro Airport. Granholm was Wayne County Corporation Counsel when the questionable corporate contracts on two parking projects took place from "an apparent pattern of cronyism and no-bid contracts," which prompted investigation by the FBI and by state and local auditors. She ordered a review as State Attorney General. Blanchard and Bonior criticized her for "reviewing" the project rather than ordering a full investigation, and Bonior insisted that Granholm should remove herself from the case. Granholm defended that she had taken the appropriate action and continued to oversee the review.

Shortly before the 2002 gubernatorial election, a memo was released to reporters from Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick addressed to Granholm. It asked that, in exchange for his support and Detroit votes, Granholm must provide jobs and appointments for Detroit natives. The memo proposed numerous specific ways that Granholm could help if elected, including ensuring that 20 percent of new political appointees were African-American. Granholm’s opponent, Republican Lieutenant Governor Dick Posthumus, publicly denounced the “corrupt pact” between Kilpatrick and Granholm. She said that she had never seen the memo, and she stated that she would never “respond to those kinds of demands.” In addition, Kilpatrick said he had not written the memo or signed off on its terms.

Personal Life

Photo: Articlebio
Jennifer and her husband, Daniel Mulhern. Photo: Articlebio

While Granholm was at Harvard, she met fellow law student and Michigan native Daniel Mulhern, a theology graduate from Yale University. They married in 1986 and they took each other's surname as their middle names. They have three children.

On October 21, 2010, Granholm was made a Commander of the Royal Order of the Polar Star, First Class, by the King of Sweden "for her work in fostering relations between Michigan and Sweden to promote a clean energy economy".

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