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FLINT, MI – Rallying potential voters in Flint, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed and New York congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shared stories of their personal connections to the city Saturday.
“It is my honor and my privilege to be here today with you in a city that has been in my family’s history for a long time. My grandmother trained at Hurley hospital, my grandpa went to Kettering, and I grew up spending a lot of my summers in Flint because my mom and my dad both taught at that university,” El-Sayed said at the beginning of his speech. “When I say that it is an honor and a privilege to be back in Flint, I say it with the deepest amount of regard and the deepest amount of belief in the future of this city.”
Ocasio-Cortez, who shocked the political world when she won her June primary over incumbent Congressman Joseph Crowley, endorsed El-Sayed in early July and agreed to participate in rallies with the governor hopeful in four Michigan cities. More than 300 people attended the Flint event, which took place inside the Ferris Wheel. Additional rallies were held in Grand Rapids and Detroit Saturday, with the fourth scheduled to take place in Ypsilanti Sunday.
“It’s very emotional for me to be here today because what a lot of people don’t know is that Flint plays a very important role in the start of my story, too,” Ocasio-Cortez said before detailing a road trip to Flint that she and a friend made in the wake of the 2016 presidential election. “It was two years ago that I was sitting at the Starlite Coney Island diner. We spent two hours over some waffles and a cup of coffee, and over those two hours, we had this conversation about what happened. There was no real clear answer, except one thing: that there were too many people that put themselves, who put corporations, who put lobbyist influence, who put money ahead of the lives of everyday people here in Flint.”
That same road trip would lead Ocasio-Cortez to Standing Rock, where she was first asked about the potential of launching a campaign in New York’s 14th congressional district.
“They said don’t go to Michigan, just focus on the Bronx. After that trip to Standing Rock, the next year a Bronx public high school tested with lead in their water sixteen times higher than Flint. And they tried to tell us that the struggle of the Bronx is different than the struggle of Flint, that it’s different than the struggle of Standing Rock,” Ocasio-Cortez continued. “The reason I am here today is because I know that how we treat Flint and what we do to Flint is what we do to the Bronx, is what we do to Standing Rock, is what we do to Baltimore, is what we do to Kansas City, is what we do to St Louis. How we treat Flint is how we treat the nation.”
Both candidates have been endorsed by progressive organizations such as Justice Democrats and Our Revolution, and both campaigns have employed a strategy of expanding the electorate.
“Our swing voter is not red to blue,” said Ocasio-Cortez. “Our swing voter is the non-voter to the voter.”
Recent polling from the Marist Institute for Public Opinion shows El-Sayed remaining in third place in the Democratic primary, with 22% support, but closing the gap between himself, businessman Shri Thanedar, who sits at 27%, and former Senate minority leader Gretchen Whitmer, who is considered the front-runner with 31%. Of the surveyed Democrats, 20% remain undecided with less than two weeks until the August primary.
The polling was conducted before the effect of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders’ endorsement of El-Sayed’s campaign could be measured. Whoever walks out of the primary the Democratic nominee for governor, El-Sayed says he will support them.
One of four Republican candidates for governor will face the Democratic nominee in the November 6 general election. Attorney General Bill Schuette is the front-runner in the GOP primary with 33% of surveyed voters supporting his campaign. Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley follows closely at 26%, while state Senator Patrick Colbeck landed at 11% and 30% of Republicans remain undecided. The survey did not include Dr. Jim Hines.
Whitmer leads Schuette by 9 points in a hypothetical general election matchup, 47% to 38%. Polling conducted earlier in the month depicted the race as being slightly tighter, placing Whitmer at a 7 point advantage over Schuette, 43% to 36%. Other hypothetical matchups surveyed in that poll showed Schuette losing to Thanedar but beating El-Sayed and Calley winning over Thanedar but losing to Whitmer.
Michigan’s primary will be held on August 7, followed by the general election on November 6.