LANSING (WWJ/AP) – Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s new book doesn’t shy away from the devastating job losses that left the state in a one-state recession for most of her governorship, but she does take credit for fighting for the beleaguered auto industry and looking for jobs in moviemaking and alternative energy to make Michigan less reliant on the Detroit Three.
“A Governor’s Story: The Fight for Jobs and America’s Economic Future” officially went on sale Sept. 20.
Granholm plans to promote the $27.99 book during a Sept. 27 conversation and book signing at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor. Tickets to the event are $10 or $25 for admission and a copy of the book.
The former-Gov. co-wrote the 320-page book with her husband, Dan Mulhern. They focus on how the changes forced on Michigan can be examples of what the nation must do to compete in a global economy.
The book generally is as upbeat as the former governor, but Granholm and her husband do acknowledge how overwhelming the state’s challenges often were. Granholm was Michigan’s first female governor. A fresh face after 12 years of Republican Gov. John Engler, Granholm stepped from the attorney general’s office to the governorship with little knowledge of how to deal with lawmakers or negotiate in Engler’s hardball style.
Within weeks of taking office in 2003, the ugly reality set in: Michigan’s struggling economy was pushing down revenues and moving the state into the red. Granholm dealt with that shortfall and later ones by cutting money for state programs, universities and local governments, and sometimes had to give less to public education.
Fierce budget fights often resulted in standoffs, including government shutdowns in 2007 and 2009, that led to voter disgust with Lansing. Republicans controlled the Senate for Granholm’s entire tenure and the House for half those years.
Speaking in the book of the two legislative leaders she had to deal with during her second term, Granholm characterized fellow Democrat and House Speaker Andy Dillon as “thoughtful” and “full of ideas,” but added, “he could be hard to pin down.”
Her take on Senate Republican Leader Mike Bishop: “To me, Senator Bishop was intellectually soft and ideologically hard — a rigid right winger.”
Unfortunately for Granholm, both of these seeming opposites eventually joined forces and basically left her out of the loop on budget discussions. Granholm acknowledges her frustrations in the book but also gets in a few gleeful licks about their failures, such as the time Bishop’s all-cuts budget came up for a vote — and not a single GOP House member voted for it.
Even as she struggled to right the state’s economy among massive layoffs and shrinking budgets, Granholm eventually navigated to the national stage, pushed there by the heated debate over whether to bail out General Motors and Chrysler. She became a vocal advocate for the domestic automakers, raising her profile on talk shows and news programs. She also defended President Barack Obama’s stimulus measures and how they were helping keep Michigan afloat.
The normally positive governor also acknowledges the residents she met who lost their jobs. Shortly after Obama called in 2009 to tell her GM was going into bankruptcy, she listed a depressing litany for her husband.
“‘Fourteen more plants to close, seven in Michigan. Twenty-one thousand more jobs lost.’ I let out a long sigh, closed my eyes and put my head in my hands,” she wrote.
Faced with her ongoing discouragement, Mulhern a few days later gave his wife some pointed advice: “You’re in an impossible loop. You know that no matter how hard you work, you’re not going to succeed by traditional measures. You want to be perfect. You’re not. At some point you have to accept it.”
Granholm said she finally realized it would take longer than she’d be in office to fix Michigan’s economy.
Her critics would say her policies didn’t help. Yet Granholm did stay in office long enough to see the state’s unemployment rate drop from 14.5 percent to 11.7 percent, she writes, and to see jobs added in industries she’d promoted, such as manufacturing batteries for electric cars and blades for wind turbines.
By the time she stepped down at the end of last year, she’d helped force Detroit Kwame Kilpatrick from office in 2008 for his part in a text messaging scandal; handily defeated multimillionaire and Amway heir Dick DeVos in 2006 after the most expensive governor’s race in Michigan history, even though she’d questioned if she should even run for re-election; and joined Mulhern in raising the couple’s three children.
Spokeswoman Liz Boyd said the former first couple aren’t just proud of what they did, they want to use their experience to help others. The book’s last chapter lays out what they see as the keys to creating U.S. jobs in a global marketplace, including developing national strategies for economic growth and better educating citizens.
The book is written from Granholm’s perspective, but it “was a collaboration between the two of them,” Boyd said. “The Michigan experience provides some lessons for the nation, and the governor and Dan are anxious to talk about that.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.