LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said she was “thrilled” when Joe Biden chose Kamala Harris as his running mate, and her decision to be vetted for the job despite earlier reservations will benefit Michigan if he is elected president.
“It means that I get to keep my dream job here in Michigan and be near three generations of my family in the state that I’ve always called home,” she told The Associated Press on Monday before speaking to a national audience watching the virtual Democratic National Convention. “Now we have two wonderful people that I think are going to be in White House come Jan. 20.”
The first-term governor of a battleground state was on Biden’s short list and flew to Delaware to meet with him on Aug. 2, nine days before he announced his pick. She confirmed an AP report that she had asked to no longer be considered about two months earlier in the process, as she dealt with the coronavirus pandemic and then flooding from Midland-area dam failures.
“He asked me to think about it and (said) he’d really like me to stay. He asked me and so of course I thought the appropriate answer was ‘Yes, what a true, true honor,’” said the Democratic governor, whom Republicans have accused of “auditioning” to join the ticket by appearing on national TV news shows and not being 100% focused on her job.
Whitmer, who is a national co-chair on Biden’s campaign and is herself up for reelection in 2022, said her having had one-on-one conversations with and building a relationship with the potential next president is going to benefit Michigan. She said: “And for that reason, I’m grateful that I was asked to go through the process.”
Whitmer said she and Biden “connected on a number of levels.”
“We tend to be cut from a similar cloth — plainspoken people who are really focused on the public that we serve and really I think genuinely enjoy public service and do it out of a desire to improve the quality of people’s lives. No pretense.”
Biden, the governor said, seemed interested in many characteristics including how her administration has navigated the COVID-19 outbreak. The state was a deadly hot spot in the spring, and she instituted a stay-at-home order to curb the spread and flatten the curve, reducing hospitalizations. Her criticism of the federal response to the pandemic drew backlash from President Donald Trump, who dismissively called her “the woman in Michigan.”
Michigan Republicans have in turn knocked Whitmer’s handling of the crisis, particularly for issuing restrictions unilaterally and vetoing bills related to nursing home residents and deferred taxes. Likely voters have viewed her favorably and given her positive job ratings in polling.