Abdul El-Sayed is a candidate for Governor of Michigan who is competing in the Democratic primary, which will be determined on Tuesday, August 7.
If El-Sayed wins the primary, then he’ll be one step closer to becoming the first Muslim governor in U.S. history. El-Sayed has been backed by fellow progressive Democrats Bernie Sanders (who famously won Michigan from Hillary Clinton in 2016) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who have been conducting a full court press for El-Sayed in the days leading up to the primary.
El-Sayed is considered to be an underdog to his competitor, former state Senator Gretchen Whitmer. Here’s what you need to know.
1. El-Sayed Is a Former Physician & Public Health Expert Who Is Running for Office for the First Time
Prior to running for office, El-Sayed was an executive director for the Detroit Health Department, as well as a public health expert, according to Politico.
According to one of his campaign videos, El-Sayed went to medical school “to learn how to heal,” but then he realized “that it was our politics that made people sick in the first place.”
2. El-Sayed Claims to Be Fighting ‘The Language of the Impossible,’ Per One of His Campaign Videos
“The language of the impossible is when they tell us there’s nothing we can do when the water poisons our babies, that we can’t complain about barely living paycheck to paycheck or when we can’t see a doctor. That we’ll never stop Betsy Devos from profiting off our public schools.”
El-Sayed continues, “That language of the impossible, it’s there when they tell us you’re too young, too brown, too black, too foreign, too female, too muslim, to lead. They’ve tried to dominate us with it our whole lives. But on August 7, we quiet them.”
3. El-Sayed Played Lacrosse at the University of Michigan, & Delivered the Student Commencement Speech Next to Bill Clinton
According to El-Sayed’s official site, he was born and raised in Michigan, and went through the Michigan public school system until he ended up at the University of Michigan for college.
El-Sayed played lacrosse at Michigan, and at his 2007 graduation, he was given the honor of delivering the student commencement speech alongside former President Bill Clinton.
After graduating from college, El-Sayed was granted a Rhodes Scholarship, and eventually earned a doctorate from Oxford University, as well as a medical degree from Columbia University.
4. At 30 Years Old, El-Sayed Became the Youngest Health Official of Any Major American City
After finishing his doctorate and medical degrees, El-Sayed became the Health Director for Detroit, aiming to rebuild the Detroit Health Department after the city’s bankruptcy lead to its privitazation.
El-Sayed’s site notes that his “leadership…led to the Detroit Health Department [becoming] a state and national leader in public health innovation and environmental justice, in one of the fastest municipal public health turnarounds in American history.”
In one of his own campaign videos, El-Sayed says at a rally, “I had the privilege of rebuilding Detroit’s Health Department after it had been shut down in a city with a higher infant mortality rate than my father’s native Egypt. And no matter where I go, people are asking the same questions: why is it that our economy seems to lock people out?”
El-Sayed continued, “This summer is the people’s summer…it starts when we decide to believe in who we are as a country.”
5. El-Sayed Wants to Prove that a Democrat Can Flip One of the Three States That Trump Flipped in 2016
To El-Sayed and many of his supporters, the gubernatorial race this fall is about flipping back a state that went red in 2016.
Ben Wikler, the Washington director of MoveOn.org, which is backing El-Sayed, said of El-Sayed, “Michigan is ground zero for the debate over how you win back power from Trump and Trumpism, and Abdul El-Sayed is the living avatar of the idea that to defeat Trump you don’t move right.”