Abdul El-Sayed’s gubernatorial campaign goes national

August 1, 2018
Bill Kubota, Detroit Public Television’s One Detroit

Michigan candidate for governor Dr. Abdul El-Sayed got a boost from New Yorker Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez this past weekend as the clock winds down to election day Tuesday August 7th.

New York Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez campaigns for candidate for governor Abdul El-Sayed in Ypsilanti two weekends before the Michigan primary election

Ocasio-Cortez, a Democratic Socialist energized by her upset victory over a longtime congressman the New York primary a month ago, has been campaigning in the Midwest for others progressive candidates including a two-day stint traveling Michigan with El-Sayed.

Reporters from national outlets including The Washington Post and The Guardian trailed the candidates looking for clues for more possible progressive upsets around the country.

Among the campaign stops was a church in Ypsilanti, where Detroit area Congresswoman Debbie Dingell stopped by, as promised in a Facebook post.

Dingell is supporting Gretchen Whitmer in the Democratic primary for governor and a recent Huffington Post article reported by Daniel Marans referred to the congresswoman in the headline: “Michigan Lawmaker Suggests Muslim Candidate Faces Hurdles Due To His Faith.”

Quoted in the article, when asked if she thought a Muslim could win, Dingell said, “I don’t want to say that because I think [El-Sayed’s] fabulous, and I represent one of the largest populations of Muslims in the county, but there are people trying to divide us by fear and hatred, and [President Donald Trump] is one of them.”

Dingell has since denied suggesting a Muslim can’t win.

At the rally in Ypsilanti where El-Sayed introduced Dingell to a crowd of more than 500 supporters, she said, “I have a lot of interns in my office, I have friends who are supporting all three candidates [including candidate Shri Thanedar] and it’s up to every individual to make a choice.”

Dingell said she’s known Whitmer for 30 years and said, ”I’ve gotten to know Abdul in the last year. I respect him, I have not and will not say anything negative. End.”

El-Sayed said of Dingell’s appearance, “It says a lot that she would come to support people and even support the other side.”

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed speaks at a rally at the Brown Chapel AME Church in Ypsilanti

When asked if his Muslim faith might be why he’s not getting her support, he said, “I don’t know. I’ve known Congresswoman Dingell for a long time now, a lot of respect for her and I know she wouldn’t assume the worst of somebody because of their faith but I wanted to make sure she understood why we can win this race.”

A recent Detroit Free Press poll shows Whitmer at 49 percent, Thanedar at 22 percent and El-Sayed trailing at 19 percent with the rest undecided.

Earlier this week, Vice News quoted El-Sayed saying the attitude of “very powerful people who call the shots in the [Democratic] party” didn’t think he win.

“As you can imagine these folks in power being like, oh no, no, no, this can’t work,” El-Sayed told Vice News, “He’s brown and Muslim. He can’t win.”

For more on the story, watch the report above about Abdul El-Sayed’s campaign stop in Ypsilanti with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Congresswoman Debbie Dingell reported by Hassan Khalifeh of Detroit Journalism Cooperative partner The Arab American News for Detroit Public Television’s One Detroit.