Abdul El-Sayed speaks at GVSU

GVL / Emily Frye      
Michigan Govenor candidate Abdul El-Sayed speaks at the GVSU Town Hall meeting on Wednesday March 14, 2018.

GVL / Emily Frye Michigan Govenor candidate Abdul El-Sayed speaks at the GVSU Town Hall meeting on Wednesday March 14, 2018.

Arpan Lobo

As November’s gubernatorial election looms, the campaign season has begun to heat up. On Wednesday, March 14, one Democratic dark horse spoke at Grand Valley State University.

Hosted by the GVSU College Democrats, candidate Abdul El-Sayed spoke in front of GVSU students for a little more than an hour in the Kirkhof Center Grand River Room. During the town hall, El-Sayed addressed revitalizing Michigan’s economy, investing in public education, addressing corporations in politics and more.

“I am done waiting; we are done waiting,” he said. El-Sayed’s platform can be viewed as rather progressive. He would be the first Muslim-American to serve as governor in the U.S., but he has previously spoken about not wanting to be looked as a Muslim but as an American. While he has drawn parallels to former President Barack Obama, a more apt comparison would be former Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders.

El-Sayed, 33, served as the executive director of the Detroit Health Department from 2015 to 2017. He received an undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan and was a Rhodes Scholar from Oxford. He fulfilled his M.D. at Columbia University. During the town hall, he shared his desire to remove corporate backers in politics. 

“Our politics are a show,” he said, comparing them to professional wrestling. El-Sayed explained that while citizens may see politicians engage in heated debates on television, they are often taking money from the same multinational corporations in the same way wrestlers portray fabricated heated rivals. 

“The same old politicians play the same old game,” he said. “We’ve got to be honest about what is broken, and we’ve got to be honest about to fix it.”

El-Sayed was introduced by GVSU College Democrats president Andrew Nurmi. Nurmi called El-Sayed a “champion of progressive affairs” in Michigan. Nurmi also claimed that the turnout for the El-Sayed town hall drew the largest crowd among College Democrats events. 

El-Sayed also addressed issues pertaining to the opioid crisis in Michigan, immigration and gun reform. He called U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ recent interview on “60 Minutes” a “hot mess,” saying that DeVos’ preferred method of charter schools has no place in American education.

“Not everyone in Michigan can say that (they have a right to an education),” El-Sayed said. He broke down his plan for education in Michigan, saying that money needs to be invested in both teachers and students in an equitable manner. He cited the gap between educational funding for students in Oakland County, the richest county in Michigan, and students in Detroit. 

“The work that we have to do is building a Michigan in which every kid has a shot,” he said. 

After his speech, El-Sayed fielded questions from audience members related to education, women’s empowerment, labor organization and fighting gentrification in Detroit.

With November drawing closer, El-Sayed is hopeful he can earn the Democratic nomination and eventually the governorship. In a poll conducted in January, El-Sayed trailed Republican frontrunner and Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette by four points in a hypothetical head-to-head. In that same poll, Gretchen Whitmer led Schuette by seven points.

GVSU College Democrats meet every Monday at 9 p.m. in the Kirkhof Center, Rooms 2215/16.