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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on her second term: “I think it will be liberating.”

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Carlos Osorio
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The Associated Press
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is interviewed by The Associated Press in her office, Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022, in Lansing, Mich.

The background: Governor Gretchen Whitmer cruised into winning her second term last week, beating her Republican opponent by nearly 11 points and helping Democrats win the state House and state Senate for the first time in nearly 40 years. After leading the state through a global pandemic, armed protests at the state Capitol, and a kidnapping threat, more Michiganders turned out to vote for Whitmer this election than in 2018. And second terms as Governor in Michigan are different. There isn’t the pressure of knowing you’ve got to run again for reelection in four years. This week, I spoke with Whitmer about her priorities for a second term.

The question: How is Governor Gretchen Whitmer thinking about her second term in office?

The answer: “I think it will be liberating, to be honest,” Whitmer said. There are a number of different goals Whitmer said she is looking to achieve heading into the new term. “My goal is to hand this over this state’s leadership to whomever succeeds me in as strong of a position as we can build. That means continuing to move Michigan to be a top ten state in literacy, continuing to outcompete other states and get investments and advanced manufacturing in life sciences and semiconductors.”

The takeaway: In recent history, Michigan Governors have won second terms (think Rick Snyder, Jennifer Granholm, John Engler) but, as noted above, a Democratic Governor has not had a Democratic majority in four decades. This is going to be a fascinating moment in Michigan government (Capitol Correspondent Rick Pluta and I talked a bunch about this on Stateside). Meanwhile, Whitmer’s big win in a purple state has many national media outlets buzzing about her as a possible candidate for president. Take a listen to the interview with Whitmer to hear what she says when I asked her why she thinks so much attention is being paid to her future.

Want more Michigan politics?

Also on this week’s show I spoke with two crazy-smart political minds in Michigan: John Sellek, CEO of Harbor Strategic Public Affairs and Adrian Hemond, CEO of Grassroots Midwest. Sellek has worked on Republican presidential campaigns and Hemond has worked at the state Capitol for Democratic lawmakers. So who better to talk to about the Whitmer-for-President headlines, what is on Democrats’ agendas when they take over Legislative control in January and whether or not Michigan Republicans are doing any introspection after last week’s shellacking (three words: Grand New Party).

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Zoe Clark is Michigan Radio’s Political Director. In this role, Clark guides coverage of the state Capitol, elections, and policy debates.