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Jennifer Granholm goes after Donald Trump in speech to Pinellas County Democrats

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Political observers might recall Jennifer Granholm’s impassioned speech before the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte in 2012 — it was so intense (and at times over the top in its intensity) it had many people believing she might have been on medication. She later joked to CNN that she was simply “high on democracy.”

The former Michigan governor came to Clearwater on Saturday night, where she gave an animated speech at the Pinellas County Democratic Party’s “Prelude to Victory” dinner at Ruth Eckerd Hall. The highlight was a nearly six-minute “ode” in rhyming couplets that compared political conditions in her home state of Michigan with Florida, for which she was rewarded with a standing ovation from the Pinellas Democrats who sat on the stage at the venerable concert hall.

For the past year, Granholm has frequently appeared on television as a top surrogate to Hillary Clinton, so it was somewhat curious that she barely mentioned the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee during her half-hour appearance. Then again, that might have been appropriate, considering that Clinton seemed to narrowly avert an indictment in the controversy over her emails while at Secretary of State. While cleared by FBI Director James Comey, her troubles may not be over, if House Republicans have anything to say about it.

Instead, Granholm did the safe thing for Democrats this year — she ignored Hillary and concentrated on bashing Donald Trump on a number of fronts.

“He’s the most divisive figure we have seen ever probably run for president,” she said, beginning her bill of particulars on why he was unworthy of support. “He has alienated women, he has alienated Mexicans, he has alienated Muslims, he has alienated Jewish-Americans, you name it. He’s alienating at a moment when we need someone to heal, to bring people together.”

She cited NY Times stories on those who have been deleteriously affected from enrolling Trump University, and a Moody’s Analytic analysis that his economic program would drive the country with nearly 3.5 million job losses.

“One of the reasons I wanted to come here to talk to you, is that YOU are the EYE of the STORM. This is Florida!” she later exclaimed.

Before Congressional District 13 candidate Charlie Crist introduced Granholm to the stage, he made note of the traumatic week the country has gone through.

“It was a tough week for our country, but it will make us stronger,” he said. “We will look out for the members of the police department. We will look  out for the members of minority communities.”

Crist mentioned how the 13th Congressional District in Pinellas that he’s running for this year happened because the Florida Supreme Court ruled that CD 13 and seven other congressional districts in the state had been illegally gerrymandered by state Republicans. “I got to appoint four of them,” he said, referring to his four years when he served as the Republican governor of the state.

In her remarks, Party Chair Susan McGrath spoke positively of the fortunes of Democrats in the party, including the hope to maintain the first pro-Democratic County Commission in fifty years. She predicted victories for Crist in Congress and Rick Kriseman in his re-election for Mayor in 2017, and noted one difference between the two major parties in the U.S.  “They’re a party of obstruction, and we’re a party of construction, and we’re building things. And it’s not a wall, okay?”

Along with virtually every Democrat running for office in Pinellas this fall, other guests at the dinner included U.S. Senate candidates Patrick Murphy, Pam Keith and Rocky De La Fuente,  a South Florida-based entrepreneur who is also on the Democratic ballot for Senate this August.

De La Fuente footed much of the bill for Saturday’s event, which is why he – and not Murphy or Keith – was allowed ten minutes to address the crowd in what was a relatively harmless, if uninteresting speech about his background.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at

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