Gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed brings campaign to CMU


Gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed poses for a group photo after his discussion at the College Democrats meeting in Anspach 166 on Sept. 20.

Abdul El-Sayed is campaigning for a more just, equitable and sustainable Michigan. 

The gubernatorial candidate spoke to a crowd of about 30 people Wednesday night at an event hosted by the College Democrats at Central Michigan University. El-Sayed is the second 2018 Democratic candidate to speak at CMU this month -- Gretchen Whitmer addressed students and community members on Sept. 9. 

El-Sayed spoke about his background and outlined his views. 

He described his family as uncommon but “entirely American.” His father, an Imam, was raised in Egypt. His stepmother, who raised him since the age of 3, hails from Gratiot County. 

The 32-year-old doctor and former executive director of the Detroit Health Department knows he faces demographic challenges in Michigan. However, the man who wants to be America’s first Muslim governor said he can appeal to Michiganders, specifically those who voted for President Donald Trump. 

“We’re watching as our politics are being paralyzed by a culture of fear that tells us we cannot see eye-to-eye with people who see the world differently than we do,” El-Sayed said. “If we are willing to stand up and have the courage to see beyond the differences -- to see the things that unite us -- we can solve our problems.” 

He said he can also energize the Democratic base. “We have to figure out how to pull out progressives, young people and people of color. Who can do that better than a progressive young person of color?” 

El-Sayed said the state is moving backwards and criticized the priorities of politicians in Lansing. 

From public schools to roads, Michigan is “literally crumbling.” He added that more than 25 percent of roads and bridges don’t meet basic criteria, the state’s education ranking has dropped and health care is inequitable. 

“They tell us ‘our economy has never been better and unemployment is at an all-time low,’” El-Sayed said. “You know what else is at an all-time low? Labor participation. We have a full ten percent of our population that has been looking for a job for so long they’ve stopped looking and wages have never been lower.” 

He said the state can guarantee a better quality of life if Michiganders recognize that they are united by a shared future. He added that Democrats should unapologetically support progressive policies that help people. 

El-Sayed laid out many of his policies while answering questions from the audience. 

Immigration and DACA

Luz Vera Smith, an immigrant from Mexico, asked El-Sayed the same question she asked Whitmer two weeks ago. She wanted to know what he would do to protect children impacted by the revocation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy.    

“I’m concerned because their home is Michigan,” Vera Smith said. “I found the American dream. If you come as an immigrant and are a good person, you will do good. I want those kids to do good like I did.” 

El-Sayed said every immigrant he’s met came to the United States to make a better life for themselves. He invoked the argument for state’s rights and vowed to make Michigan a “sanctuary state.”

“We as a state have the right to not allow the federal government to impose its restrictions and responsibilities on our state tax dollars,” El-Sayed said. “I think it’s smart policy, I think it’s conservative policy -- which is ironic -- and I think it’s what we need to do to protect our families and our industries.” 

Rising tuition costs

Increased funding for education is an investment in people, El-Sayed said. He added that the issue of rising tuition cost is multifaceted and hurts the state in several ways. 

The government should help students pay off their debt as an incentive to remain in Michigan, he said. The state must also develop a way to make college affordable, especially for low-income students. 

Health care 

The biggest difference between American health care and that of other countries is the United States doesn’t commit to meaningful investment, El-Sayed said. He supports a single-payer health care system and said he would work to implement a state system if the issue isn’t handled by the federal government.

Campaign finance reform and Gerrymandering

El-Sayed called on Gov. Snyder to veto two bills signed Wednesday to lift state campaign finance restrictions. He said he won’t accept corporate donations.

He supports efforts to establish a nonpartisan commission to draw representative district boundaries. El-Sayed said if referendums don’t achieve that goal he will work to push laws through the legislature. 

Minimum wage

Michigan must adopt a $15 minimum wage, El-Sayed said. He added that the wage must be increased incrementally in order to prevent destabilization of the economy.