Perhaps no state has embraced the political outsider as much as Michigan, where a venture capitalist won the last two governor’s elections and a real estate baron carried the presidential vote. Now Dr. Abdul El-Sayed is putting that affinity for newcomers to the test. Is Michigan ready for change?
El-Sayed, a 32-year-old liberal doctor in Detroit, is mounting a surprisingly robust bid to become the nation’s first Muslim governor. He served as the Executive Director of the Detroit Health Department and Health Officer for the City of Detroit from 2015-2017. Appointed at 30 years old, he was the youngest health commissioner in a major US City. Previously, he was Assistant Professor in the Department of Epidemiology at Columbia University. He is an internationally recognized public health expert, and the author of over 100 scholarly articles, abstracts, and book chapters on public health policy, social epidemiology, and health disparities. His essays on public health policy have also been published in The New York Times, CNN, The Hill, The Huffington Post,The Detroit News, and the Detroit Free Press. On February 9, 2017, the Detroit News reported that El-Sayed will resign his position as health director to run for governor of Michigan in the 2018 Democratic Party primary.
One of the four viable Democrats in Detroit liberal a 32-year-old doctor , is mounting a surprisingly robust bid to become the nation’s first Muslim governor. The diverse Democratic field includes front-runner Gretchen Whitmer, a former legislative leader who has raised $1.5 million and has secured labor union support; Shri Thanedar, an immigrant entrepreneur from India who has given his campaign $3.3 million but remains largely unknown for now; and Bill Cobbs, an African-American former Xerox executive who has not collected much money. El-Sayed, the son of Egyptian immigrants, was born in Michigan and grew up in the affluent Detroit suburb of Bloomfield Township. His father and stepmother are mechanical engineering professors who now work as college administrators.
Just two Muslims serve in Congress, neither with an Arabic surname: Reps. Keith Ellison of Minnesota and Andre Carson of Indiana. El-Sayed and Deedra Abboud, a Democratic Senate candidate in Arizona, are among the first Muslims to pursue major statewide offices. Michigan has one of the largest Arab populations outside the Middle East, but is it ready to elect a Muslim as chief executive? El-Sayed says yes, though he insists the election will be about his qualifications and grass-roots movement. Via washingtonpost
“I think folks are looking for something fresh, new, exciting, competent. And we offer that,” said the self-assured El-Sayed, who emphasizes his work rebuilding Detroit’s health department after the city’s bankruptcy.
He officially announced his candidacy for Michigan governor on February 25, 2017. El-Sayed was inspired to run for governor following the Flint water crisis, stating
“I watched as Governor Snyder and his team of accountants were cutting costs and cutting corners. Their inattention to communities ultimately poisoned thousands of children – and those children were the very ones that I was serving at the helm of the health department. … And that’s something I didn’t believe in. I believe in government as something we do in this country for the people and by the people”.
El-Sayed pledged not to accept any campaign donations from corporations, and has raised over $1,000,000 from individual donations.
Thus far El-Sayed has visited 81 cities and 35 counties in the state of Michigan according to his campaign, and embarked on a second listening tour of the states.
Running against Trump – a president who touted a “Muslim travel ban” as one of his policies – poses its logistical challenges. El-Sayed could be both the youngest person to be elected governor since Bill Clinton won Arkansas in 1978 at the age of 32, and the first Muslim in the United States to do so.