Sanders boosts progressive candidate ahead of Michigan governor primary

Sanders boosts progressive candidate ahead of Michigan governor primary
© Greg Nash

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Election night could be a bit messy The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump, Biden blitz battleground states Oct. 29: Where Trump and Biden will be campaigning MORE (I-Vt.) sought to boost Michigan Democratic gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed in Detroit on Sunday, delivering a last-minute pitch to voters to cast their ballot for the progressive hopeful in the state's primaries on Tuesday.

"What he knows, what I know, what all of you know is that real change never takes place from the top on down," Sanders said in Detroit's Cobo Center. "It is always from the grass roots on up."

In a fiery stump speech that touched on the senator's usual motifs of income inequality and the corrupting influence of money in politics, Sanders touted El-Sayed as a political ally who would buoy the progressive movement in a state narrowly won by President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden campaign slams Facebook after thousands of ads blocked by platform's pre-election blackout Mnuchin says he learned of Pelosi's letter to him about stimulus talks 'in the press' Harris to travel to Texas Friday after polls show tie between Trump, Biden MORE in 2016.


Sanders also took shots at Trump on Sunday, accusing him of being a "pathological" liar who had brazenly misled working-class voters. Instead, Sanders argued, Trump sought to dismantle health-care laws and embraced tax cuts that amounted to a windfall to the wealthiest Americans.

"We need governors, like Abdul, to stand up to the greed and the pathological lying of Donald Trump," Sanders said. "We need governors to remind people all over this country that when Trump came to Michigan he promised the people of this state and people all across the country that he was going to provide health care to everybody ... He lied. He lied."

El-Sayed, a former executive director of the Detroit Health Department, cast the primary on Tuesday as a seminal contest that carried the potential to drastically reshape Michigan's political landscape. 

"I know that in our democracy we've got a choice in 2018, and that choice is not just about one candidate over another. It's not even about one party over another," El-Sayed said.

Speaking before Sanders on Sunday, Nina Turner, the president of the Sanders-aligned group Our Revolution, hailed El-Sayed as an advocate for social justice.

She said that it was not enough to vote for a Democrat, asserting that El-Sayed's progressive credentials are what set him apart from others in the race.

"It's not enough just to have a 'D' behind your name," Turner said to cheers. "It is about standing up for the people and caring more about the next generation than you care about the next election."

"The system is rigged; politically it is rigged; economically it is rigged," she added later. "All that we love is on the line." 

In hitting the trail for El-Sayed on Sunday, Sanders became the latest progressive heavyweight to boost the former Detroit health official ahead of Michigan's Tuesday primaries.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a self-described democratic socialist who stunned many in the political world in June when she defeated Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) in a primary contest, stumped for El-Sayed last month in Grand Rapids, Flint, Detroit and Ypsilanti. 

Most recent public opinion polls have showed El-Sayed in third place, behind former state Sen. Gretchen Whitmer and businessman Shri Thanedar. Whitmer currently holds a 20-point advantage over her two Democratic opponents, according to the RealClearPolitics polling average.

Sanders shrugged off El-Sayed's numbers on Sunday, recounting how he too saw dwindling polling numbers ahead of the 2016 Democratic presidential primary in Michigan. He ultimately beat out Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHarris to travel to Texas Friday after polls show tie between Trump, Biden Harris more often the target of online misinformation than Pence: report The Hill's Campaign Report: What the latest polling says about the presidential race | Supreme Court shoots down GOP attempt to block NC mail ballot extension MORE in that contest.

"We won that election and, by the way, so will Abdul," Sanders said.

The 33-year-old physician is hoping to capitalize on the support of Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez to mount a last-minute comeback in the race, setting the stage for progressives to test their message ahead of the general elections in November.

He has campaigned on a progressive message, largely in line with that of Sanders, vowing to pursue a statewide, single-payer health-care system and a $15 per hour minimum wage. 

Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez also appeared in Kansas last month to boost progressive Democrat Brent Welder in his bid to oust Rep. Kevin YoderKevin Wayne YoderBottom line Amanda Adkins wins GOP primary to challenge Rep. Sharice Davids Sharice Davids to vote for Trump impeachment articles: 'The facts are uncontested' MORE (R-Kan.) from his House seat. That primary is also set for Tuesday, and is likely to be closely watched as a potential bellwether for how the progressive movement is playing out in the Midwest.