Bernie Sanders to campaign for Abdul El-Sayed in Michigan

Abdul El-Sayed, Bernie Sanders

Lansing — U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders is coming to Michigan to tout gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed and will stump for the Shelby Township Democrat two days before the Aug. 7 primary.

Sanders, a democratic socialist whose 2016 presidential run galvanized the progressive left, is scheduled to join El-Sayed at stops in Detroit and Ypsilanti on Sunday, the El-Sayed campaign announced Tuesday.

Sanders' work to build the progressive movement in Michigan in 2016 pushed issues like single-payer health care and free college programs into the limelight, said El-Sayed, who said he felt "honored and humbled" by the senator's support. 

"Bernie Sanders is one of the country's most important political leaders and the progressive standard-bearer, and I'm thankful that the senator has recognized that there is only one progressive running for governor of Michigan," El-Sayed said in a statement. 

If elected, El-Sayed will "fight for a government in Lansing that represents all the people, and not just wealthy special interests," Sanders said in a statement. 

Sanders and El-Sayed will be joined by Our Revolution President Nina Turner for the rally at 3 p.m. Sunday at Cobo Center in Detroit. The time and location of the Ypsilanti rally has not yet been set. 

El-Sayed has placed third in most public opinion polls of the three-candidate Democratic field, but the late assist from Sanders comes on the heels of a profile-boosting visit last weekend from Alexandria Ocasio Cortez. 

The New York Democratic congressional candidate and democratic socialist who defeated U.S. Rep. Joe Crowly in a June primary helped El-Sayed rev up enthusiastic crowds in Grand Rapids, Flint, Detroit and Ypsilanti. 

Sanders scored a surprise win in Michigan’s 2016 presidential primary, topping eventual Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by less than two percentage points. El-Sayed is hoping to pull of a similar upset in the gubernatorial race.

The former Detroit health director is running on a far-left platform that includes creation of a state-level "Medicare for All" socialized health care system, free college for students from families that make less than $150,000 a year and a $15 per hour minimum wage.

Sanders' national Medicare-for-All plan could increase government spending by $32 trillion over 10 years, according to a new report from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, which said nationwide health care spending could decrease due to lower prescription drug costs and reduced payments to providers. The left-leaning Urban Institute reported similar government spending estimates in 2016.   

Election 2018: The Democrats

Former state Sen. Gretchen Whitmer remains the front runner in Michigan's Democratic gubernatorial primary. The East Lansing resident has locked up support from most labor unions that have traditionally propelled Democrats to primary wins. She is also backed by Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, Wayne County Executive Warren Evans and several congressional Democrats.

Whitmer is planning to spend her final days of the primary campaign on a get-out-the-vote tour that will include campaign stops with Duggan, Evans and U.S. Reps. Dan Kildee, Debbie Dingell and Brenda Lawrence.

Ann Arbor entrepreneur Shri Thanedar, who like El-Sayed has positioned himself to Whitmer’s political left, has pumped more than $10 million into his own campaign. As of last week, he'd spent more than $9 million, flooding voters with television ads, billboards and mailers.

Thanedar is holding a series of town halls in the run-up to the Aug. 7 primary, including stops in Flint and Saginaw on Thursday.

Sanders endorsed El-Sayed last week, prompting jeers from the Republican National Committee.

“It’s not surprising to see one comrade in Bernie Sanders endorse another fellow comrade in Abdul El-Sayed, but what is surprising is that El-Sayed continues to believe in pushing a radical socialist agenda for Michiganders," RNC spokesperson Michael Joyce said in a statement.

Attorney General Bill Schuette, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, state Sen. Patrick Colbeck of Canton and Saginaw obstetrician Jim Hines are competing for the Republican nomination.

(517) 371-3662

Twitter: @jonathanoosting