Surprise N.Y. Democrat winner endorses El-Sayed

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the winner of a Democratic Congressional primary in New York, greets a passerby in New York, Wednesday, June 27, 2018, the morning after she upset U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley in Tuesday's primary election.

An upstart New York Democrat who upset a congressional leader last month in the Democratic primary has endorsed a fellow progressive Democrat in Michigan's gubernatorial race.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the surprise Democratic winner over incumbent U.S. Rep. Joe Cowley in a district including the Bronx and Queens, endorsed Shelby Township Democrat Abdul El-Sayed for Michigan’s next governor.

“I believe a politics of working hard for economic, social, and racial justice can succeed anywhere in America. Michigan is blessed to have Abdul El-Sayed as a candidate for Governor, and I am proud to support him,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a Monday tweet.

Ocasio-Cortez, a self-declared “democratic socialist” and former Bernie Sanders presidential campaign organizer, beat out the fourth-ranked House Democrat for the Democratic nomination. Some say Ocasio-Cortez’s advocacy for a Medicare-for-all health care system and the end of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency signals a shift further left for the Democratic Party.

El-Sayed, the former Detroit health department director and Rhodes scholar, has advocated for a Medicare-for-all government health insurance system, marijuana legalization, a $15-an-hour minimum wage and free college tuition for families within a certain wage range.

“I am thankful for Alexandria’s leadership, grateful for her support and I look forward to building a more just, equitable, and sustainable America together,” El-Sayed said in a statement.

The progressive Democrat will face Ann Arbor businessman Shri Thanedar and former Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer of East Lansing in the Aug. 7 primary.

Whitmer has secured most union endorsements and establishment support in the Democratic primary.

Thanedar, who also bills himself as a progressive, has spent about $6 million of his own money in the race and has advocated for a single-payer health system and universal child care.