Democratic gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed made a campaign stop in Kalkaska Tuesday night, where he spent an hour speaking to a group of about 25 people. Kalkaska made national news this summer for the Islamophobic views of its' village president, Jeff Sieting. El-Sayed is Muslim, and attendees were happy that he still chose to visit Kalkaska. Danielle Seabolt is the Chair of the Kalkaska County Democrats, who hosted El-Sayed:
"We were pretty excited to have Abdul here tonight. This is actually the second gubernatorial candidate that's come to Kalkaska, but to have him here, especially with all of the comments and things that have surrounded Kalkaska recently, I think this was a good show of what Kalkaska truly is, and the people who make up this community."
Phil Hayes of Elk Rapids was impressed. "He's classy," Hayes said. "What people have said about certain groups doesn't phase him."
El-Sayed didn't focus on Islamophobia. He spent most of the time discussing a range of issues from the economy to health care, but he didn't shy away from the recent comments. He spoke about Village President Sieting's comments as a failure of leadership. He also pointed out that he still wants to serve even those with Islamophobic viewpoints.
"If I'm elected, there will probably be a small minority of people who just fundamentally can't stand the fact that I was elected governor. I have a responsibility to them, too. I can't say, 'Because you hate me, I'm not going to govern for you'."
Kalkaska was the first of 20 stops in a second statewide 'listening tour' for the candidate.