Posted by Kane Farabaugh | 21 July 2018 | 4,467 times
It's standing room only in the large ballroom of this northern Michigan resort as people eagerly await the arrival of a young, well-spoken, charismatic Rhodes scholar seeking to reach Michigan’s highest elected office.
“When I graduated college, Bill Clinton asked me why I was going to med school, and he asked me if I ever considered running for office. And at that time, I thought that was off limits to me,” Dr. Abdul El-Sayed told VOA.
Muslim American El-Sayed grew up in Michigan, where he often faced prejudice.
“I was the captain of my football team, and I was a junior in high school. And the week after 9/11, the games were canceled that week, but the week after, we were back on the field. And I remember that football game. For the first time, people were calling me names that I would hear for the rest of my life: ‘Raghead.’ ‘Osama.’ " he recalls. "Funny thing is, my brother’s name is Osama. And I used to say, ‘You’ve got the wrong El-Sayed.’”
But he could be the right El-Sayed to make history as Michigan’s — and the nation’s — first elected Muslim American governor. One of his biggest challenges is convincing enough voters to support him in a state that narrowly helped Republican Donald Trump win the presidency in 2016.
About 90 Muslim Americans are seeking elected office throughout the United States during midterm elections this year. Many are running as Democrats hoping to be part of a “blue wave” that shifts control of the U.S. Congress.
El-Sayed is among 13 Muslim candidates running for office in the state of Michigan, where his faith and ethnicity have been important facets of his life that are now also fueling attacks and accusations by political opponents.
For those in Michigan’s large and growing Arab American community, the fact that El-Sayed is a viable candidate at all is a welcome change in politics.
El-Sayed said he isn’t focused on the potential of such a historic moment. He simply wants to give back to the community that shaped him. El-Sayed, who gained recognition as Detroit’s top health official, seeks to lead a state still dealing with a water contamination crisis in the city of Flint that began during current Republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s tenure.
El-Sayed is among several candidates vying for the Democratic nomination for governor in Michigan’s primary election August 7.
He’s considered a progressive and has the backing of many Michigan voters who supported Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in his bid to win the Michigan presidential primary in 2016.
If Democratic voters ultimately choose him in August, he will have to garner enough statewide support to defeat a Republican opponent in the November general election.
•Excerpted from VOA
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