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Democratic gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed dropped by Daily Detroit on Wednesday at the Mackinac Policy Conference to talk about his decidedly underdog candidacy, his progressive policies, why he lost the endorsement of Mayor Mike Duggan and firmly establish his outsider credibility.

“A lot of politicians come here to rub shoulders with corporate lobbyists and try and get those corporations to back their campaigns. I just don’t take corporate money,” El-Sayed said.” My role here is very different. I see myself as an informant of sorts for folks who don’t get to come to islands like this for the things that I’ve been learning about the challenges in their lives.”

El-Sayed is famous — or in some circles, infamous — for being openly Muslim. He’s the son of Egyptian immigrants who grew up in the Detroit area, played lacrosse at the University of Michigan and won a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University in England. He’s a doctor who most recently ran the Detroit Health Department following its shuttering in the city’s bankruptcy.

He says his travels around the state have shown him that Michigan residents are concerned mostly with the quality of their children’s schools, infrastructure and health care.

El-Sayed says the state has badly underinvested in things like schools over time. He says that’s one of the primary reasons Amazon left Detroit off its list of finalists for its HQ2 project.

“The state tried to offer Amazon $4 billion in incentives. It didn’t work,” he says. “And the reason that they didn’t come is because we had not invested that same money in the same things that they were looking for in the first place: great opportunities for people to raise families because they have great public schools, and great public transportation, and great infrastructure. We don’t have those things.”

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