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Detroit — Seven months into his 2018 bid for governor, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed says he’s confident that his grassroots movement challenging establishment politics is gaining traction.

The 32-year-old former director of Detroit’s health department is sharing a message, he says, is focused on investing in people, and said he’s not discouraged by the endorsements or polling lead of the race’s Democratic frontrunner, Gretchen Whitmer.

El-Sayed met Thursday with The Detroit News Editorial Board and said the system of politics in Michigan might be engrained, but he believes he’s “definitely disrupting that in some big ways.”

“The thing that is inspiring about this moment is that a lot of folks are asking, ‘How do you as a millennial Muslim doctor run in ‘Trump’s America,’” El-Sayed said. “What we are doing is challenging the notion that it is anybody’s America. This is our United States of America.”

The son of Egyptian immigrants, El-Sayed said he’s always been keenly aware of “what this state gave me.”

To that end, his campaign focus has been about investing in people. El-Sayed has come out as a supporter of the national push for a $15 minimum wage and the legalization of marijuana in Michigan.

He’s against tax breaks for big corporations and an opponent of for-profit charter schools, which he said have led to a disinvestment in public education.

“Accountability should be about investing in a school that you know is suffering,” he said.

El-Sayed raised more than $1 million in his quest to be Michigan’s next governor in the first five months of his campaign, which officially launched in February.

He believes more investment is needed in the public school system and the state’s roads and bridges. Tax increases for the state’s highest earners will be in order as well as other and creative revenue sources, he added.

“At the end of the day, there’s something exciting about somebody who really represents the future that you see yourself living,” he said. “I think the ability to be able to pull out young people and inspire them to believe in their politics again is pretty critical to our campaign, and we’re doing it.”

CFerretti@detroitnews.com

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