Flint — Harnessing the momentum of national endorsements, Democratic governor hopeful Abdul El-Sayed touted his progressive message as he campaigned in Michigan Saturday alongside New York congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

The progressive Democrat reiterated his plans for a $15 minimum wage, clean water, efforts to “de-Devos” the state’s education system, and Medicare for all to a group of more than 300 people inside the Ferris Wheel in downtown Flint.

“These are not just possible,” said El-Sayed. “We will make them our future in the state of Michigan.”

Ocasio-Cortez, the surprise Democratic winner over incumbent U.S. Rep. Joe Cowley in a district including the Bronx and Queens, endorsed the Shelby Township Democrat El-Sayed for Michigan’s next governor in early July. A self-described “democratic socialist,” Ocasio-Cortez also was scheduled to rally with El-Sayed in Grand Rapids and Detroit on Saturday and Ypsilanti Saturday.

The rally Saturday comes just a few days after former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders added his endorsement to El-Sayed's campaign.

El-Sayed is the only candidate able to deliver on the promise of health care for all, said Ocasio-Cortez. She urged volunteers to help convince potential voters that “this is a system worth buying into, that it is still possible to elect people who are divested from corporate money.”

“Our swing voter is not red to blue,” she said. “Our swing voter is the voter to the non-voter, the non-voter to the voter.”


Democratic governor hopeful Abdul El-Sayed speaks at a Flint rally Saturday with N.Y. congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Beth LeBlanc, The Detroit News


El-Sayed will compete in the Aug. 7 primary against front runner and former Senate minority leader Gretchen Whitmer and Ann Arbor businessman Shri Thanedar. 

Though both call themselves progressives, El-Sayed seems more “electable” than his opponent Thanedar, said Jim Goettel, of Davison.

Goettel, who attended the Saturday rally with his wife and son, also was a big supporter of Sanders and was “impressed” with Ocasio-Cortez.

“People throw the socialism thing at you but we’ve had social ideas in this country forever,” Goettel said, referring to public schooling and emergency services. “For me, it's not a bid deal.”

A Sanders supporter, Oxford resident Dan Sargent was happy with the former presidential candidate's endorsement of El-Sayed. The former Detroit health department director is an alternative to the politicians whose policies focus on corporations instead of people, Sargent said.

“The constitution says 'We the People,' not 'We the Corporations,'” he said.

Support from national names like Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders reflects the backing of a movement that is focused on “speaking truth to power” and “running campaigns honestly,” El-Sayed told reporters after the rally.

The endorsements are a validation of the campaign's message, El-Sayed said, and suggest to voters "that in fact their instincts are right, that they have been marginalized by the crop of politicians on the left and the right.”

The behavior of the other Democratic candidates “speaks for itself,” El-Sayed said, as he doubled down on criticism of corporate-backed candidates and shifting loyalties. The state is ready for change, El-Sayed said, and he felt confident of his chances in August.

“The horse race question about whether or not a progressive can win in Michigan, honestly, all of the numbers say that it’s possible,” El-Sayed said. “This state went for Bernie Sanders (in the primary) then went for Donald Trump. What they don’t have the appetite for is corporate-backed Democrats who give you nothing but the same.”

Still, El-Sayed will support whoever wins the Democratic primary, he said.

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