For Abdul El-Sayed, the race for governor is all about changing the national political conversation.
After Michigan turned from blue to red in 2016, narrowly electing the unconventional and controversial Donald Trump as president — the first Republican since 1988 — El-Sayed wants the rest of the nation to know that the "America First," nationalist agenda espoused by Trump is not what Michigan stands for.
"If I win this primary, I want you to think about what happens to this race," he told a Democratic audience in Sterling Heights last month. "This race goes from being a sleepy Midwestern governor's race to being one of the most important races in defining this moment of the electorate in 2018. That means national coverage, national fund-raising and the optics of this race go sky high.
"A lot of people want to send a message to Donald Trump. I'm like a 215-pound middle finger to Donald Trump."