El-Sayed tops $1M fundraising mark in governor campaign

Jonathan Oosting
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — Democrat Abdul El-Sayed has raised more than $1 million in his quest to be Michigan’s next governor, according to campaign finance documents filed Monday with the secretary of state.

The former Detroit health department director launched his campaign in February and reported raising $1,016,740 through July 20.

El-Sayed ended the period with $644,324 cash on hand after spending $373,457. He reported more than 3,600 individual contributions, but his campaign noted he did not accept any money from corporate political action committees.

“Our movement is for real people and by real people,” El-Sayed said in a statement. “That’s why people from across the state have stood up and supported this movement. This is proof that a politics of people works — and that Michiganders are looking for candidates who are not bought and sold by corporations.”

Topping the million dollar mark is a notable feat for the 32-year-old Detroit candidate, but the self-described “progressive” is not the first Democrat to cross the threshold. Former state Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer of East Lansing, a likely frontrunner for the party’s nomination in 2018, had raised $1 million by late May. Whitmer began her campaign in early January and El-Sayed followed in late February.

Whitmer and other declared candidates for the governor’s race are expected to file campaign finance reports Tuesday, the official state deadline.

Susan Demas, editor and owner of Inside Michigan Politics, said El-Sayed’s fundraising haul is “impressive” for a candidate who is still not well known in parts of the state.

“I think it shows that even with some big Democrats like (U.S. Rep.) Dan Kildee and (University of Michigan regent) Mark Bernstein taking a pass on the race, it’s not clear that this is over,” Demas said.

The El-Sayed campaign reported more than 2,000 contributions of less than $200. More than $625,000 came from Michigan residents, while out-of-state donors kicked in roughly $409,000, according to a review by The Detroit News.

Twenty-seven individuals gave El-Sayed a maximum allowable contribution of $6,800. Those top donors include West Bloomfield Township physicians Shareef Ahmed and Wael Hakmeh, Natural Justice nonprofit director Johanna Von Braun of New York and tech executive Sohaib Abbasi of California.

It’s not surprising that El-Sayed is attracting out-of-state money “because there is interest in his being potentially the first Muslim governor” in the country, Demas said.

Whitmer has been endorsed by Emily’s List and could see significant contributions from women, according to Demas. On the Republican side, Attorney General Bill Schuette or Lt. Gov. Brian Calley could also generate national interest if they enter the race as expected, she said.

El-Sayed reported raising funds at 11 separate fundraisers in Michigan, California and Illinois. The most lucrative was a June 18 fundraiser at the Muslim Unity Center in Bloomfield Hills, where he raised $32,580.

The campaign reported spending more than $12,500 on Facebook advertisements.