One-on-one with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed

Ahead of the Aug. 7 primary election, 7 Action News is sitting down with candidates for governor and U.S. Senate to learn more about them and their ideas.

We spoke with Abdul El-Sayed, a Democratic candidate for governor.

QUESTION: What doesn’t the average person know about your interests, hobbies and who you are?

ANSWER: I’m a midwestern guy born and raised in this state. Had the privilege of growing up in a really diverse house between my father who is an immigrant from Egypt and my step-mom Jackie born and raised in the middle of the state in Gratiot County.

I love ice cream. Deeply love ice cream, and I actually figured out where the best ice cream in Michigan is. Might break some hearts here but if you’ve never been to Moomers in Traverse City, it’s fantastic, and you sit right there, and you watch the cows sort of graze as they are making the milk that turns into the ice cream that you’re eating. It’s like a meta ice cream process, So I deeply enjoy ice cream.

QUESTION: What are your thoughts on current Michigan gun laws?

ANSWER: I’ve got a seven-month-old baby girl. I can't imagine what it would be like to watch as kids stream out of her school and pray to god that she was one of those kids that got out.

Number 1, I don't believe the kinds of weapons that were intended for a theater of war, should be allowed to be bought and purchased and owned in a place of peace. We also have to step up and make sure that in situations where somebody has shown themselves to be an irresponsible owner of a gun, that law enforcement has the ability to go and take that gun back. One of the things we don't pay attention to right now which is probably the biggest predictor of the probability of somebody using a gun to hurt other people is domestic violence, and so we’ve got to include that in background checks. We’ve also gotta make sure we have universal background checks, and we close the loopholes. 

A lot of my family are sports people. They’ve hunted their whole lives. They know that the kinds of guns that have these rapid-fire capacities that can be fitted with bump stocks, those kinds of guns aren't being used to go hunt a buck right?

QUESTION: Legalization of marijuana is a big topic of debate. What is your stance?

ANSWER: I think there’s a double standard that exists right now. Marijuana is no more dangerous medically than alcohol is and we’ve got a responsibility to make sure that we don’t allow that double standard to exist in our society.

Right now the degree to which young, largely people of color, are being arrested for things like marijuana possession, has created a civil rights issue. If you’re black in this country, you are 3.3x as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession despite no higher likelihood of use. So we’ve got to make sure that our policies are not instilling a certain kind of structural racism into criminal justice.

I look forward to pardoning anyone who has been convicted of a non-violent marijuana-related offense, on my first day in office.

QUESTION: How can we provide a better education for students in Michigan? Charter Schools? 

ANSWER: We’ve got to stand up, and we’ve got to de-Devos our public education system. What does that mean to me? We’ve got to invest more. We spend less per pupil per year on education than any other state in the midwest, and we’ve got to invest.

De-Devosing public schools means getting the profit motive out of public schools. No more for-profit charter schools. We need to create an off-ramp so that those for-profits can turn into non-profits.

When I was Health Director in the city, we inspected city schools. I saw things like dead mice in the corner of classrooms. We’ve got to have the money to be able to invest in the infrastructure, the buildings that our kids are learning in and that means we’ve got to think outside the box.

Our state right now, it subsidizes corporations to the tune of billions of dollars. Estimated about 20% of our budget goes to the bottom lines of big corporations in the state of Michigan.

Those jobs, those corporations haven't created a new job over the last ten years, so whats the point? Instead of giving them money, subsidizing their existence in the state of Michigan, our priority should be our people and our places.

QUESTION: Roads in Michigan are among the worst in the nation. What will you do to fix this major infrastructure problem? 

ANSWER: We need the ability to invest over the long term in real construction. The infrastructure bank allows us to do that. And because it doesn't have to be renewed every year in terms of the emergency funding that goes into filling those potholes, it allows us to bypass some of the politics that get in the way of those big-picture fixes. Infrastructure in Michigan isn't just roads. Our roads are so bad that roads dominate the infrastructure conversation, but it also means pipes, like the ones that poisoned kids in Flint. It also means renewable energy infrastructure and school infrastructure. And a lot of these projects come together right? If you’re going to fix the road, why not fix the piping underneath it?

QUESTION: The Flint Water Crisis is an ongoing issue for the people in that city and a scar for the state of Michigan. What needs to be done next?

ANSWER: First and foremost we’ve got to get the lead piping out of the ground. People will not trust their water their after having been lied to by state government until we do that.

Number 2 though, I know as a doctor that lead poisoning is pernicious. Lead competes with calcium in your bones, so it just stays there and it lets out over a long period of time. The best way to address that is we’ve got to get comprehensive health care to every kid in Flint and comprehensive academic training opportunities. 

We do those four things, get the lead out, invest in healthcare for our kids, invest in education and invest in the sustainable economy; I think Flint can be a leader in the future.

QUESTION: An opponent has accused you of having ties with the Muslim Brotherhood. Is Michigan ready for a governor of Muslim faith?

ANSWER: That movement has forgotten what it means to be American. I believe in people of the state of Michigan. And when people say well he can’t win because he’s Muslim, they’re not betting against me; they’re betting against Michigan. 

My allegiance is to the United States of America. I can't believe I have to say that, but its the United States of America and to the constitution that does these beautiful things at the same time. Number 1, it protects my right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. For me, that means I choose to pray a certain way, to other people they choose to pray a different way or not pray at all. But all those things are protected. But it also guarantees me under article 6 the right to aspire to that highest ideal of citizenship which is public service elected in a democratic process, and that’s what I’m aspiring to. And anybody who would say otherwise is attacking religious freedoms. And there is nothing more American than that. 

So my question is about whether or not that group of people have allowed their hatred and divisiveness to get in the way of their allegiance to the constitution. Because I will not let anything get in the way to my allegiance to our constitution and the oath that I will take that I will protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America and the state.

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