Sanders: El-Sayed can make history in Michigan primary

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News
Abdul El-Sayed speaks at a rally Sunday, Aug. 5, at Cobo Center.

Detroit — In a last-minute push to woo primary voters, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders touted the progressive platform of Democratic governor hopeful Abdul El-Sayed in Detroit Sunday and urged supporters on Tuesday to bring their friends and families to the polls.

"I understand there has been some discussion here in Michigan about the polling and the fact that Abdul is behind in some of the polls," Sanders told the crowd at Cobo Center. "So let me give you the personal perspective of somebody who experienced Michigan polls a few years ago.”

The Vermont democratic socialist said polls had him 27 points behind the day before he won the 2016 presidential primary in Michigan.

“We won that election and, by the way, so will Abdul,” Sanders said.

The Sunday rally was the latest boost for the Shelby Township Democrat from the national progressive movement hoping to gain a foothold in Michigan.

Sanders embraced El-Sayed and attacked President Donald Trump during his speech, not mentioning the former Detroit health director's primary opponents, Shri Thanedar and Gretchen Whitmer.

Sanders portrayed El-Sayed as reflecting a wave of nationwide sentiment for far-left ideas, such as a $15 minimum wage, tuition-free college and Medicare-for-all, and universal health care coverage. He said an El-Sayed victory on Tuesday would ensure a governor who would "stand up to the greed and the pathological lying of Donald Trump."

"Let us do everything we can in the next few days to create a historical victory in Michigan and America," Sanders said. "Let us elect Abdul as the next governor of the state of Michigan.”

Sanders endorsed El-Sayed, a progressive Democrat and former Detroit health department director, in late July a few weeks after New York congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio Cortez endorsed the Shelby Township Democrat. Ocasio-Cortez joined El-Sayed for rallies last weekend in Grand Rapids, Flint, Detroit and Ypsilanti.  

Sanders is credited with galvanizing the progressive left during his failed 2016 presidential run while Ocasio-Cortez’s surprise nomination in June upset Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Joe Cowley in a district including the Bronx and Queens. By contrast, El-Sayed has not embraced the "democratic socialist" label.

In his remarks to the crowd, El-Sayed spoke of his father's immigration from Egypt to Detroit as a graduate student and urged supporters to ignore polling numbers predicting a loss for his campaign.

“They might tell us there’s not enough time,” El-Sayed said. “But it's not about how much time you have, it's about how much of yourself you put in that time."

People all over the country are watching the governor’s race in Michigan to determine whether the “working people” can take on the political establishment, Sanders said.

"What happens here in Michigan will not only impact this great state; it will impact the entire country," Sanders said.

Democratic gubernatorial  candidate Abdul El-Sayed and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders together on the stage at the end of Sanders' speech at Cobo Center in Detroit, Sunday.

Most of the major unions such as the United Auto Workers, Teamsters and Service Employees are backing former Michigan Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer of East Lansing.

Jeffrey Shank was one of those watching from the ballroom floor.

The 26-year-old Lake Orion man is a fan of El-Sayed’s plans for affordable health care. And as an undergraduate student at Oakland University, Shank said El-Sayed’s plans for accessible education would have an impact on his future.

“I, like many, will have a lot of debt for school,” Shank said.

For Jennifer Batsios, El-Sayed’s plan for the state’s future seemed to be more than just “talking points.” The 27-year-old Ferndale resident attended Sunday’s rally to show her support for El-Sayed and the Vermont senator.

“They stand for what we need to make things better,” Batsios said. “This is a more progressive side that’s ready to move on and make change.”

(517) 371-3661