Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has been vetted for VP job, Democratic insiders say

Former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign has vetted Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as a potential Democratic vice presidential running mate, two well-known Michigan Democrats said Wednesday.

Southfield attorney Barry Goodman, a member of both Whitmer and Biden’s finance teams, said his understanding is that the first-term governor went through a "full vetting." Former Michigan Gov. Jim Blanchard, an early endorser of Biden in the presidential primary, said he's been told Whitmer has been "thoroughly vetted."

"I know she’s been vetted," Blanchard said. "There’s got to be six or seven others in that category.”

From left, Sen. Kamala Harris, Joe Biden, Gov.  Gretchen Whitmer and Cory Booker at the Joe Biden campaign event at Renaissance High School in Detroit on Mar. 9, 2020.

Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, plans to announce his pick for vice president next week. While national attention has focused recently on other potential candidates, including U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California, and U.S. Rep. Val Demings, D-Florida, Biden told WOOD TV in Grand Rapids earlier this month that Whitmer, a co-chair for his campaign, was still under consideration.

Biden's campaign didn't respond to a request for comment.

The former vice president has previously said he plans to pick a woman to be his running mate and is considering four African-American women. Some Democrats have called on him recently to pick a nonwhite woman as a national push to confront systemic racism continues.

But Blanchard noted that if Whitmer, a white woman, became vice president, her lieutenant governor, Garlin Gilchrist II, could become the lone African-American governor serving at that point in United States. Gilchrist also would become Michigan's first Black governor.

"I think that would be a factor," said Blanchard, who was Michigan's governor from 1983 through 1991.

Other Democrats mentioned the possibility this week when discussing Whitmer as a potential running mate. Gilchrist is a software engineer from Detroit who is serving in his first elected office, although he was a social media manager for Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign. 

Whitmer has a good reputation and has been tested on the toughest of issues this year as Michigan has faced the COVID-19 pandemic, Blanchard said.

"I think she’s an ideal running mate for a lot of reasons," said the former governor, who argued that Biden should pick someone who has been elected statewide previously.

Goodman, a member of the Democratic National Committee, said he knows Whitmer is on Biden’s short list but is unsure of her ranking. Goodman said he also knows that the Biden campaign has called people to ask about Whitmer.

"I joked with one of her staff members, saying I was a little disappointed knowing her for 25 years she didn’t put me on the list. I would have been good! Nobody called me and said, ‘How great is Gretchen?’ — when I would have said she is as good a choice as you could ever make."

"I would be very excited to see her be VP, but I would miss her here in Michigan," Goodman added. "I think she’s doing a wonderful job. I would like to think that Garlin could step in but, you know, she’s proven herself now for a year and a half and deserves to finish out the term and get another four years."

Whitmer previously served in the Michigan House and Senate. She was elected governor in 2018, defeating then-Attorney General Bill Schuette by 9.5 percentage points.

She leads a state that's key to Biden's chances this fall. President Donald Trump won Michigan by 10,704 votes in 2016, his smallest margin of victory nationally.

Garlin Gilchrist.

But some Democrats have been skeptical of a Whitmer nomination because it would require her to spend time campaigning as she also leads a state that is fighting COVID-19.

Some Democrats also have noted that Gilchrist is relatively untested as a headline candidate. He narrowly lost a race for Detroit city clerk to incumbent Janice Winfrey in 2017. If Whitmer became vice president, Gilchrist would have to run for re-election in 2022.