Gov. candidate, El-Sayed, touts college affordability, end to gerrymandering
Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, one of five candidates for the Democratic Party in the race to become Michigan’s next governor in 2018, visited MSU College Democrats on Monday night at Wilson Hall and delivered a speech outlining his policy positions heading into the campaign.
“MSU is one of the great public universities in the country, and certainly in Michigan,” El-Sayed said. “So I wasn’t going to let school finish without coming out here and engaging folks and talking about what I’m trying to do and what we’re trying to build from our future.”
El-Sayed was most recently Health Commissioner for the city of Detroit, a position he took in 2015 at age 30, making him the youngest health commissioner of a major city. In February, he resigned to put his full efforts into his run for governor.
If elected, El-Sayed would become the first Muslim governor in the United States, though he said he does not want to make his religion part of his identity as a candidate.
At the meeting, El-Sayed explained his backstory as the son of a father who immigrated from Egypt and a mother whose family has been in America for hundreds of years. He also explained the reasons he feels his background in public health makes him a fit for the job as governor of Michigan.
In a question-and-answer session, El-Sayed clarified his support for the legalization of marijuana, single-payer health care and bipartisan redistricting, among other issues.
The governor elected in 2018 will preside during a redistricting period, and El-Sayed said he would support a “bipartisan, independent” effort.
“What I would be for is making sure, once and for all, that every vote matters the same,” El-Sayed said. “No one lives in a gerrymandered district, not gerrymandered by the right, not gerrymandered by the left, but every single district matters and is at play every single election.”
El-Sayed said he supports marijuana legalization because it would allow for better enforcing of marijuana regulations among young users who are vulnerable to the drug’s effects, and also because it would help reduce incarceration rates especially among poor African-American men.
“The single best way ... around limiting marijuana usage for folks for whom marijuana may be dangerous ... is to legalize it for everyone else and be very focused about who can’t use it,” El-Sayed said during his speech. “It’s just smart policy.”
El-Sayed said his experiences as a doctor led him to believe single-payer healthcare would be the best way forward.
“Every single high-income society in the world has recognized that you can provide access to healthcare that is more equitable, cheaper and more affordable for people if you get government involved,” El-Sayed said during his speech. “And that’s because, fundamentally, markets don’t work for healthcare."
One of the focuses of El-Sayed’s campaign is on restoring Michigan’s education system, which he said has fallen behind since the days when he grew up in Detroit. He said college affordability is an important part of creating a “thoughtful, equitable” public education system.
“We have to all come together and make (college) more affordable, and that means reinvesting in public colleges and universities from the state,” El-Sayed said. “It also means making sure that universities are willing to come to the table and make sure that they shouldn’t be strapping their students with huge debt on the back end.”
El-Sayed said his time as health commissioner in Detroit caused his staunch opposition to emergency management as a solution for cities in crisis.
“I’m in the position where I’m rebuilding an agency that was shut down when our city was facing emergency management, whose sole responsibility is to watch out for the wellbeing of vulnerable people, while watching as the same system of emergency management was poisoning the same types of people that I was trying to protect,” El-Sayed said, according to a recording of the meeting.
College Democrats President Daniel Eggerding helped bring El-Sayed to MSU. He said he hoped to help MSU students become more civically engaged by bringing candidates to campus.
“All of our Democratic candidates have great values, great sets of ideals that they’ll all be great in office no matter what,” Eggerding said. “But there’s minor differences between a few of them that the students can look at that, engage who they like the best and get out and vote.”