Michigan doctor believes US ready for first Muslim governor
By DAVID EGGERT
DETROIT — 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.
El-Sayed, a 32-year-old liberal doctor in Detroit, is mounting a surprisingly robust bid to become the nation’s first Muslim governor.
Democratic leaders are stunned by the sudden emergence of the former Rhodes scholar, who served as Detroit public health director, in the primary field after he quickly raised $1 million.
He is one of four viable Democrats and, for now, three Republicans in a race that his party considers a must-win to re-establish itself after eight years of GOP control of state government.
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 grassroots movement.
“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.
Political insiders are not sure about the religious complexities but are impressed by his fundraising.
“No one expected El-Sayed to raise that kind of money — no one,” said pollster Ed Sarpolus.
The governor’s race in 2018 is wide open with Republican incumbent Rick Snyder, a former business executive, leaving after two terms.