Bernie Sanders campaign veterans rally behind Michigan's El-Sayed


by Gregory Krieg, CNN

A growing slate of Democratic operatives and young progressive organizers who made their bones on Sen. Bernie Sanders' 2016 presidential primary campaign are lining up in 2018 behind another political insurgent, Michigan gubernatorial candidate Dr. Abdul El-Sayed.

Michigan was the site of what many in Berniecrat circles still consider their most emboldening 2016 victory. After trailing by double digits in most polls in the days and weeks leading up to the vote, Sanders narrowly defeated Hillary Clinton -- a result that seemed to surprise him as much as anyone else -- and reignited his flagging campaign.

The candidate profiles have changed, but a similar upset for El-Sayed -- front-runner Gretchen Whitmer, a former state Senate minority leader, won a quick round of labor endorsements (though the United Auto Workers have remained notably uncommitted) and led heavily in early polling -- would confirm to the Democratic left that its populist playbook for the upper Midwest, and possibly beyond, is a sustainable one.

Now, key members of the group that helped deliver Michigan to Sanders are returning, or hunkering down, to boost El-Sayed, the 33-year-old former Detroit Health Department leader described by activist and supporter Linda Sarsour as "our younger version of Bernie."

Claire Sandberg, Sanders' digital organizing director in 2016, joined El-Sayed this week as his deputy campaign manager. She had spent parts of the last six months in Europe, introducing campaign volunteer tactics similar to those used to great effect during the Vermont independent's campaign, to left-wing groups like those backing the UK's Labour Party ahead of the British elections last June.

"It's great to be back in Michigan," she said Wednesday night. "I spent a lot of time here on the Bernie campaign and met a lot of amazing volunteers who were active on that campaign, who are now active in the Abdul campaign."

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