James Johnston "Jim" Blanchard (born August 8, 1942) is an American politician from Michigan. A Democrat, Blanchard has served in the United States House of Representatives, as the 45th Governor of Michigan, and as United States Ambassador to Canada.
Blanchard attended the public schools in Ferndale, Michigan. He received a B.A. from Michigan State University in 1964. He also earned a MBA from the same school in 1965. Blanchard received a J.D. from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1968 and was admitted to the Michigan bar in the same year. He commenced practice in Lansing and served as legal advisor to the Michigan Secretary of State, 1968–1969. He was Assistant Attorney General of Michigan, 1969–1974, administrative assistant to the attorney general, 1970–1971, and assistant deputy attorney general, 1971–1972. In 1974 he joined the law firm of Beer and Boltz, in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.
United States Representative
Blanchard was elected as a Democrat to the United States House of Representatives from Michigan's 18th District for the Ninety-fourth and to the three succeeding Congresses, serving from January 3, 1975 to January 1, 1983. During that time, despite being a relatively junior member of Congress, he was responsible for legislation providing federal loan guarantees for Chrysler Corporation that saved the company from a likely bankruptcy.
Governor of Michigan
He was not a candidate for reelection to Congress in 1982 but was elected Governor of Michigan, defeating Republican Richard Headlee, a Farmington Hills insurance company executive. Blanchard served two terms as governor (1983–1991) until his defeat by Republican state senator John Engler in 1990. Blanchard was the first Democratic governor to serve in 20 years since John Swainson who left office in 1963.
Governor Blanchard's eight years as Michigan's chief executive were notable for his success in turning around Michigan's finances, working with the private sector to attract business investment and trade from around the world. He won national acclaim for his innovative approaches to economic development, education, crime fighting, environmental protection and helping children and families.
On January 1, 1983, he took over what was described as "the toughest governor's job in America." His state faced a $1.7 billion deficit, the threat of bankruptcy, record high unemployment of more than 17 percent and the worst credit rating in America. Working with leaders of business, labor, education and local government, the governor put together a strategy for Michigan's future and made the tough decisions necessary to keep it on track. Jim Blanchard completed his work as Michigan's 45th governor having balanced eight consecutive state budgets, boosted the state's credit rating to AA, established a $422 million "rainy-day fund" and produced a solvency dividend of more than $1 billion in savings from reduced borrowing costs. His aggressive small business and economic development efforts helped create more than 650,000 net new jobs, improve the business climate, increase companies' global competitiveness and make Michigan's economy 35 percent more diversified than it had been a decade earlier. Most noteworthy, Blanchard initiated Michigan's first Office of the Great Lakes and created the Michigan Education Trust (MET), the nation's first tuition guarantee program. He was reelected 1986 by the largest margin of any governor in Michigan history.
Newsweek credited Governor Blanchard with leading "one of the most dramatic economic turnabouts in the recent history of state government," and national publications such as U.S. News & World Report listed him among the best governors in America, one of the innovators and energizers who made things work in an era of declining federal aid.
After losing the gubernatorial election to John Engler in 1990, Blanchard became a partner in the Washington law firm of Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, McPherson and Hand. He also chaired Bill Clinton’s successful campaign for president in Michigan in 1992.
President Bill Clinton appointed him Ambassador to Canada, a position he held from 1993 to 1996. In 2002, Blanchard again ran for governor but lost his primary bid to Jennifer Granholm. As of 2004, he is a partner in the Washington D.C. law firm of DLA Piper U.S. and resides in Beverly Hills, Michigan. He serves as Chairman of Meridian International Center and on the Advisory Board of the Institute for Law and Politics at the University of Minnesota Law School and is Vice President of the Foundation for the National Archives. Blanchard is also co-chair of the Canada-United States Law Institute.
Blanchard served as a member of the "Debt Reduction Task Force" at the Bipartisan Policy Center. He is on the board of directors at Enbridge, and was a board member of Nortel and Chrysler Group LLC ( 2009-2012).
Blanchard is a member of the ReFormers Caucus of Issue One.
Most noteworthy, Blanchard initiated Michigan's first Office of the Great Lakes and created the Michigan Education Trust (MET), the nation's first tuition guarantee program, The Michigan Strategic Fund, The Canada-US Open Skies Agreement of 1995 and authored "Behind the Embassy Door" in 1998. He was reelected 1986 by the largest margin of any governor in Michigan history. Newsweek credited Governor Blanchard with leading "one of the most dramatic economic turnabouts in the recent history of state government," and national publications such as U.S. News & World Report listed him among the best governors in America, one of the innovators and energizers who made things work in an era of declining federal aid.