Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's 'True Gretch' memoir released; rising star in play for presidential run

Whitmer will be the keynote speaker at the Illinois Democratic Party’s annual top fundraising event in September in Chicago, the Sun-Times has learned.

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The cover of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's new memoir, "True Gretch"

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s new memoir, “True Gretch” was released Tuesday.


WASHINGTON — Even before President Joe Biden’s disastrous debate with former President Donald Trump sparked calls for Biden to not run again, triggering speculation on who might replace him, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, whose new book, “True Gretch” is being released Tuesday, was in the mix as a potential Democratic presidential contender — one day.

Whitmer is considered such a rising star that she will be, the Sun-Times has learned, the keynote speaker at the Democratic Party of Illinois’ annual top fundraising event this September in Chicago.

Her memoir comes as Biden is on the defensive, trying to convince Democrats that he has the mental and physical capacity to do the job — and most important, beat Trump. Biden’s next big test as he fights for his political life comes Thursday, when he holds a solo news conference pegged to the NATO summit here.

It’s a coincidence that Whitmer’s book, subtitled “What I’ve Learned About Life, Leadership and Everything In Between,” is coming out now. Whitmer announced it was in the works in April.

Whitmer is among those mentioned to replace Biden on the ticket, and her profile will get even higher as she kicks off a media blitz and national book tour Tuesday.

The buzz around Whitmer is getting louder. My analysis is that if Biden does step aside, an ugly Democratic civil war will be triggered if Vice President Kamala Harris does not become the nominee. I’ve read reports that Whitmer is trying to squelch talk about her and 2024 by underscoring her support for Biden.

However the next few weeks play out, the nation will get to better know Whitmer.

Whitmer, 52, grew up in Michigan. With undergrad and law degrees from Michigan State, she served in the Michigan House and Senate and did a stint as a prosecutor before she was elected governor in 2018. She has two daughters and three stepsons.

Her book is as much a how-to-stay-positive self-help guide as it is Whitmer’s stories: of a rape in college — and her decision to talk about it in a Senate floor speech as part of her opposition to an anti-abortion bill. About Trump’s dismissive taunt, calling her “that woman from Michigan” for her COVID-era stay-at-home orders. And the 2020 plot to kidnap and kill her.

More on Whitmer’s book

On tough times. “I’ve spent the first quarter of this century watching as the arc of our politics has bent uncomfortably toward incivility and strife,” Whitmer writes, adding “The world feels very heavy right now. War is raging in the Middle East and Ukraine, xenophobia and hatred of ‘others’ is on the rise, and political rhetoric has turned apocalyptic. But we have to find a way to keep moving ahead. We have to figure out how to do the next right thing, whatever that may be.”

Uplifting chapter titles. Who can’t use a dose of this: “Don’t let the bullies get you down. …Never give up. ...Learn to listen. ...Take nothing personally. … Seek to understand. …You’ll never regret being kind. …Own your screwups, and forgive others theirs.”

Partier. In the late 1980s, when she was in high school, she “ran with a fast crowd” and “hung out with the partiers,” once throwing up on her principal after getting drunk in the high school parking lot.

Playlist. “Not Ready to Make Nice” by the Chicks is at the top, followed by “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen.

Bras. Whitmer was looking to nail her first State of the State address. She had a lot to say about important issues. She rented a dress from Rent the Runway. Though her speech “had gone as well as I could have hoped,” she got hit from the “fashion police” whose snark included the observation: “Push-up bra, clearly.” She also writes about a woman telling her she needed “better bras. Your boobs were too low. She was right.”

Whitmer and Illinois Democrats and Pritzker

Looking ahead to Whitmer’s September keynote at the Democratic Party of Illinois gala, Illinois party executive director Ben Hardin said, “We picked Gov. Whitmer because of her stature as the executive of a swing state,” with Michigan Democrats in 2022 winning control of both chambers of the Legislature as well as the governorship. Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Whitmer, Hardin said, represent “the strength of the Democratic Party in the Midwest.”

I met Whitmer in March when she spoke for the Democrats at the Gridiron Club and Foundation dinner. Regarding Pritzker — a potential presidential rival — she came with this wisecrack about the billionaire Illinoisan, calling him “the only guy with more gold bars in his house than Bob Menendez,” playing off the New Jersey Democratic senator’s criminal charges, which allegedly involved receiving gold bars in exchange for favors.

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