Jennifer Granholm was born February 5, 1959 in Vancouver, British Columbia to Shirley Alfreda Dowden and Victor Ivar Granholm. At the age of four, Granholm's family moved to California; she grew up in Anaheim, San Jose, and San Carlos. Granholm earned a B.A. in Political Science from the University of California at Berkeley in 1984 and continued her education at Harvard Law School. After receiving her J.D. in 1987, Granholm moved to Michigan where she began her career as a law clerk for Judge Damon Keith of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. In 1990 she became a U. S. Prosecutor in Detroit, and served as corporation counsel for Wayne County from 1994 to 1996 before becoming the general counsel for the Detroit and Wayne County Stadium Authority.
Granholm entered statewide politics in 1998 when she ran for Attorney General on the Democratic ticket. She was the only Democrat elected to statewide office that year and served in the position through 2002. Towards the end of her term she had gained enough statewide recognition to enter the governor's race. Announcing her candidacy in March of 2001, she defeated both former governor James Blanchard and House Democratic Whip David Bonior to win the Democratic primary. In November of 2002, she won the general election, defeating Republican Lieutenant Governor Dick Posthumus to become Michigan's first female governor.
Granholm took office as Michigan's 47th governor on January 1, 2003. The beginning of her tenure as governor coincided with a difficult period in Michigan's economic history. As the rest of the country recovered from the 2001 recession, Michigan continued to struggle. In her first year as governor, Granholm faced a $3 billion budget deficit and a rising unemployment rate. Her administration's response to the challenges it faced reflected Granholm's moderate approach by focusing on reinforcing education, promoting economic diversification, and improving government efficiency through cost cutting and streamlining.
Despite challenges early in her first term, Granholm set about an extensive program of cuts to state expenditures in order to balance Michigan's budget. She continued to seek cost saving measures throughout her first term. Granholm also focused on education and, in 2004, established the Cherry Commission, headed by Lieutenant Governor John Cherry, to study ways to double the number of college graduates in Michigan. She also implemented rigorous K-8 standards through the State Board of Education, increased high school graduation requirements, and created the Early Childhood Investment Corporation.
After two years in office, as Michigan's economy began to stall, Granholm pursued a multi-pronged effort to spur job creation and increase the state's flagging tax base. In 2005, Granholm kicked off her economic revitalization program with the 21st Century Jobs Fund, a $2 billion program that used tobacco settlement funds to encourage diversification in the state's economy. Granholm also launched the Pure Michigan advertising campaign to promote tourism and Michigan's leisure industry. The administration viewed Google's choice of Ann Arbor for its AdWords operation as a victory for its diversification efforts. In addition to pursuing economic diversification, Granholm created the Michigan Earned Income Tax Credit and signed bills that increased the minimum wage.
With the continued downward spiral of Michigan's economy, including the loss of Greenville, Michigan's Electrolux plant to Juarez, Mexico in 2004, Granholm faced a tough re-election bid in 2006. Despite a concerted challenge from Republican Dick DeVos, a concerted campaign effort from early September through Election Day led to Granholm's eventual re-election.
Granholm's second term focused primarily on Michigan's economy. She launched the term with No Worker Left Behind, a program designed to give unemployed and under-employed workers the opportunity to receive training for high-demand jobs. The governor's other efforts at job creation included emphasizing the clean and renewable energy industry and incentives for the production of auto batteries. In April, 2008, Granholm announced a set of film incentives. The incentive package was designed to both create jobs immediately and spur long-term growth. After the financial crisis of 2008, Granholm redoubled her efforts on behalf of Michigan's economy, speaking out on behalf of the state's beleaguered auto industry during the federal bailout and pursuing increased efforts at diversification. In addition to her work on behalf of Michigan's economy, Granholm also signed the Promise Zone legislation in 2008 to give students in high-poverty communities the opportunity to attend college, presided over the hearing regarding the removal of Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, and reorganized and shut down several state departments in the interest of increased efficiency and budgetary restraint.
Granholm is currently Distinguished Practitioner of Law and Public Policy at her alma mater, the University of California at Berkeley, serves on the Board of Trustees of the Dow Chemical Corporation, and is a Senior Advisor to the Pew Charitable Trusts' Clean Energy Program. She married Daniel Mulhern in 1986 and they have three children.
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