Abdul El-Sayed, the progressive physician who was the runner-up in Michigan Democrats’ primary for governor last month, is launching a new political action committee to harness the energy from his upstart campaign.
El-Sayed’s new group, SouthPaw MI PAC, aims to bolster liberal down-ballot candidates in Michigan and to weigh in on ballot initiatives. The PAC’s emphasis will be on grassroots organizing.
El-Sayed had never run for office before his campaign for governor, and he lost the primary to former state Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, 52 percent to 30 percent. But El-Sayed’s campaign, which eschewed corporate PAC money, garnered passionate support from Michigan liberals and endorsements from national figures including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and New York congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, as well as groups like Democracy for America.
The former Detroit Health Department executive director, who said he plans to run for office again someday, is hoping SouthPaw MI PAC will focus supporters on candidates up and down the ticket in November.
“There’s just so much momentum that we know is latent out there and we want to give it a focus and give it an opportunity to get behind really great candidates across the state,” El-Sayed said in an interview.
As part of its launch, SouthPaw MI PAC is rolling out its first set of midterm endorsements, backing Democratic attorney general nominee Dana Nessel and two candidates for state Supreme Court, Sam Bagenstos and Megan Cavanagh. El-Sayed’s PAC is also endorsing three ballot measures — one to give redistricting power to an independent commission instead of state legislators, another to legalize marijuana, and a third that would add automatic voter registration, no-excuse absentee voting and other voting measures to the state constitution.
El-Sayed also personally endorsed Whitmer after their primary and appeared with her at an event the next day.
SouthPaw MI PAC will endorse more candidates in the future. The group’s advisory board will vote on nominees to endorse; candidates can also fill out a questionnaire to be considered for the group’s support.
“We will be supporting candidates who don’t take corporate money and who support a position toward universal healthcare, renewable energy and environmental regulation and support truly public public schools … and who believe in criminal justice reform and full civil liberties,” El-Sayed said. “These are the kinds of progressive candidates who are running with the same goals and focus in mind that I ran on.”
The group is starting out small, with one staffer. Aarica Marsh, a former field organizer for the campaign, will serve as executive director.
Public figures often set up political action committees to retain or set up infrastructure in preparation to run for office. El-Sayed said the group isn’t meant as a precursor to another campaign — but that he does plan to mount another run for office in the future.
“I do intend to run for office again,” El-Sayed said, adding that SouthPaw MI PAC is “about making sure that we coalesce a movement that we spent a lot of effort and time and money building in the run-up to the primary. I’m coalescing that movement so that we get it behind other progressives running up and down the ticket in Michigan.”