Abdul El-Sayed Kindles a Familiar Flame Among Bernie Sanders Campaigners
January 9th, 2018, 9:05 PM
Some Democratic presidential campaign activists who hit a dead end in 2016 now follow a new road in Michigan.
Two years ago, they worked or volunteered for Bernie Sanders. Their 2018 candidate is another progressive upstart -- Abdul El-Sayed, a 33-year-old Detroit doctor running for governor.
"Key members of the group that helped deliver Michigan to Sanders [in a March 2016 primary] are returning, or hunkering down, to boost El-Sayed," reports Gregory Krieg, a New York-based correspondent for CNN.
Linda Sarsour, a Brooklyn activist, calls the political newcomer "our younger version of Bernie." She adds: "Abdul has a very similar platform to Bernie, so that's one reason. . . . A Bernie-type candidate can win the state of Michigan."
A Washington group of political organizers called The People for Bernie Sanders backs El-Sayed in its first round of endorsements, given to seven candidates nationwide who "are continuing the political revolution."
The Michiganian, born in Metro Detroit as the son of an Egyptian engineer and physician, is a former Detroit health director. He lives in the city with his wife Sarah, also a doctor, and their two-month-old daughter Emmalee.
Krieg connects the dots between Sanders, a Vermont senator, and the man whose goal is becoming America's first Muslim governor:
After trailing by double digits in most polls in the days and weeks leading up to the [Michigan primary] vote, Sanders narrowly defeated Hillary Clinton -- a result that seemed to surprise him as much as anyone else -- and reignited his flagging campaign.
The candidate profiles have changed, but a similar upset for El-Sayed [over] front-runner Gretchen Whitmer, a former state Senate minority leader . . . would confirm to the Democratic left that its populist playbook for the upper Midwest, and possibly beyond, is a sustainable one.
Claire Sandberg, the top digital organizer for Sanders' race, became El-Sayed's deputy campaign manager last week. She tells CNN:
"It's great to be back in Michigan. I spent a lot of time here on the Bernie campaign and met a lot of amazing volunteers who were active on that campaign, who are now active in the Abdul campaign."
The first-time candidate also enlists a digital advertising and social media agency in Washington, D.C. -- Middle Seat -- started by former Sanders advisers Kenneth Pennington and Hector Sigala, who alludes to that campaign in a recent tweet:
I haven't been this excited for a candidate since April 2015. Middle Seat is honored to be on the team! https://t.co/xbh7pQp68K— Hector Sigala (@hgsigala) January 5, 2018
Excitement aside, Krieg notes that "El-Sayed remains an unquestioned underdog" in endorsements and donations.Whitmer has raised $2.3 million to his $1.6 million as of the last financial filings. "The campaigns haven't yet reported their most recent quarterly hauls," the cable journalist says.
Sandberg, the deputy manager, tells him: "Our biggest challenge is still that so many voters haven't heard of Abdul."
See CNN's full coverage for summaries of how the two Democrats stand on several issues.