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Biden picks Buttigieg for transportation, Granholm for energy

blonde woman, jennifer granholm

President-elect Joe Biden is nominating his former rival Pete Buttigieg as Secretary of Transportation and intends to choose former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm as energy secretary.

Granholm, a Democrat, served two terms as Michigan governor from 2003 to 2011. She was twice considered a candidate — but was not ultimately picked — to be energy secretary under President Barack Obama.

As governor, Granholm pushed efforts to shift Michigan’s manufacturing economy into green energy. Her time in office was difficult due to budget deficits brought on by the Great Recession — and her relationship with the Legislature was often rocky. 

In a statement, U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell praised the nomination:

“Our nation is entering a new era of energy and we need leaders willing to make smart, tough choices on our path ahead. With deep experience in the auto industry, climate change, and clean energy, Jennifer Granholm is the right choice to lead the Department of Energy under the Biden Administration. She understands how energy and environmental policies can be used to support working families, and she knows how to craft solutions to the most pressing issues we face today. This appointment is good news for Michigan and it’s good news for our country.”

Liz Boyd, Granholm’s former communications director, told Stateside that the former governor helped protect Michigan families during the recession, and that she would bring passion and experience to the energy secretary role if she is nominated and confirmed.

“When she signed the clean energy law in 2008, that laid the groundwork for what we’ve seen today in terms of clean energy in Michigan. Nobody can drive up 127 going north and not see those wind turbines in Gratiot County,” said Boyd, who now runs Liz Boyd Public Relations. “I think an awful lot of what's happening in Michigan today, the jobs that are happening in Michigan today, is the direct result of her leadership in clean energy back when she was in office.”

Michigan Radio’s Zoe Clark says Granholm had many goals for her time as governor, like putting more funding toward improving education for children in Michigan. But when the recession hit, Granholm was forced to change her focus.

“[She] had to use much of the money that she wanted to put towards education to try to get this state out of, really, what was just an economic disaster,” Clark told Stateside. “I can’t explain enough what it was like, day after day, especially in those years, of just hearing of hundreds and sometimes thousands of job losses, manufacturing job losses, every single day through this state. It was a really dark time.”

If confirmed, Granholm would be the second U.S. Energy Secretary to hail from Michigan. Former U.S. Senator and state Republican Chairman Spencer Abraham was President George W. Bush’s energy secretary from 2001 to early 2005.

Biden on Tuesday called Buttigieg a "patriot and a problem-solver who speaks to the best of who we are as a nation." Granholm's intended nomination was confirmed to The Associated Press by two people familiar with the plans who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid preempting the president-elect's announcement. Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, would be the first openly gay person confirmed by the Senate to a Cabinet post.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
The Associated Press is an independent global news organization dedicated to factual reporting.
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