As the year's primary contests draw to a close in the next two months, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has started to weigh in more aggressively in high-stakes gubernatorial contests, where he is hoping to lift young progressives who face challenging odds.
Should his support prove effective in elevating these candidates, Sanders could prove to be a valuable kingmaker in November's crucial midterm elections prior to any potential presidential run in 2020.
This upcoming weekend, Sanders will travel to Detroit and Ypsilanti, Michigan to rally on behalf of Abdul El-Sayed, who is locked in a three-way primary for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. El-Sayed, who would be the first Muslim-American governor in the United States, was also boosted by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez this past weekend as the two share similar political beliefs on single-payer health care, environmental justice and a living wage.
“I’m proud to endorse Dr. Abdul El-Sayed for Governor of Michigan," Sanders said in a statement. "As governor, Dr. El-Sayed will fight for a government in Lansing that represents all the people, and not just wealthy special interests. Under Abdul’s leadership Michigan can help lead the nation in guaranteeing health care for all through a Medicare for All single-payer type system, tuition free public colleges and universities, a minimum wage of $15 per hour and strong environmental protections.”
El-Sayed has trailed in most publicly available polling against his opponents Gretchen Whitmer and Shri Thanedar, though the campaign provided polling showing El-Sayed behind Whitmer by just six points. These rallies will take place just days before the August 7 primary.
But El-Sayed is not the only gubernatorial candidate to get Sanders' blessing ahead of a contentious primary. On Wednesday morning, the Senator from Vermont backed Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum, who is running for governor in Florida.
Recent polling has indicated that Gillum is similarly trailing in a five-person field behind former Rep. Gwen Graham and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine. But Gillum also got a massive money infusion from billionaire donor Tom Steyer, who personally pledged a $500,000 contribution to the political committee affiliated with the Gillum campaign. In total, Steyer and his outfit NextGen America, will be giving more than $1 million to the campaign.
It's unclear if Sanders will end up going to campaign in Florida on his behalf but should his endorsements make differences in these races, it could lend credence to his continued political viability on the national stage.