Eligibility questions hurt El-Sayed camp

It’s the day after the night before and they are picking up the pieces inside the Abdul El-Sayed campaign after the Aug. 7 vote. The guy who finished second in the Democratic primary for governor is fielding all sorts of “I’m sorry we let you down” apologies from his now-former campaign staffers.

He quickly put those comments in perspective and offered this to console those who were trying to console him.

“Look it,” he said. “You just helped somebody named Abdulrahman Mohamed El-Sayed receive 340,000 votes” in Michigan for governor.

He didn’t have to say anything more.

Twenty-three days after that night before, he sat down again for his first post-election debrief with the “Off the Record” panel and he was quick to pinpoint the highs and lows of his first-ever effort for statewide office.

He recounts that the momentum of his campaign was building nicely and, as the momentum went up, so did all the checks rolling in from all over the country. As former President George H.W. Bush described it, he had “Big Mo” going for him until he didn’t.

The protracted story about his eligibility to be on the ticket shut-off the money spicket, closed down the momentum and forced the campaign to undo what had been done with a story that turned out to be, in his mind, a non-story.

He thinks it was part of an opposition movement from somewhere and somebody who did not want him to get the nomination. And, while Dr. El-Sayed battled that, including a back-and-forth with his own Democratic Party, Shri Thanedar started to move in the polls, just as the first Muslim to run for governor in Michigan was marking time.

“I did not expect to have Shri in the race,” he said, and you can tell there are still hard feelings. He calls his “progressive” opponent a “rich opportunist who doesn’t have a moral core.” In other words, the two have not patched up their differences that surfaced during the campaign.

“Without Shri in the race, it’s a different race,” he tells the OTR panel.

Then there was the Bernie Sanders thing that also hurt.

Yes, the former progressive candidate for president endorsed Dr. El-Sayed and appeared at a rally but it was late. The campaign wanted him in before the absentee ballots were mailed, but the Sanders folks would not endorse while there was an outside chance the candidate would be bounced off the ballot, which would have made Sen. Sanders look a little silly.

Dr. El-Sayed reflects that the eligibility stuff was “the lowest point of the campaign” and may have cost him upward of $2 million in contributions while the four-month story painfully unfolded.

He confides that race and religion were factors in the contest, which resulted in “some of the most vile things being said to me.” In fact, it got so bad that, in the waning days of the campaign, a bodyguard was hired “because of the threats against my life.”

But, he adds, “I didn’t win because I was an Egyptian-Muslim.”

With the dust settled, he reports, “I have no grudges.” And, looking at his tiny newborn daughter just after the election, he was “upset” because “this was the first time I had failed.” But, looking into her eyes, he thought, “she doesn’t know I lost.”

And that put everything in perspective as he reveals, “I’ll be back … I will likely run again” for an office yet TBD.

See the regular OTR program and a special overtime segment at wkar.org.