Abraham Aiyash’s friend and mentor state Rep. Isaac Robinson died of a suspected case of coronavirus in March. Aiyash wants to carry on Robinson’s work in Lansing.
HAMTRAMCK, MI — “Abraham and Isaac!” Isaac Robinson would say to Abraham Aiyash. “My biblical brother!”
The friendship between the two men began when Aiyash was just a teenager. Robinson inspired Aiyash to seek a career in politics, mentored him, and will most likely be succeeded by him following November’s election.
But that’s a bittersweet thing for Aiyash, because his friend, mentor and predecessor died in March of a suspected case of the novel coronavirus that’s swept the globe.
“It’s bittersweet, Isaac was a friend and political mentor,” Aiyash told The ‘Gander. “This is an unfortunate opportunity, but the work — social, environmental and economic justice — has to continue. I hope to play a small part in that journey and build a more just and more equitable Michigan.”
Aiyash is dedicated to carrying on the causes his friend championed in the Legislature, and his biggest point of pride in his campaign so far is how he’s managed to form the kind of broad-ranging Metro Detroit coalition Robinson had managed to form.
“We built a strong, broad, diverse coalition of people all across the district,” Aiyash said. “The results were just a testament to that coalition … We are the only campaign that excited and inspired.”
Aiyash’s coalition helped him establish a commanding primary day lead over the other twelve Democrats who were running for Robinson’s seat.
The son of Yemeni immigrants, Aiyash was born and raised in Hamtramck. After attending Michigan State University, he returned home to organize his community around causes like fighting back against polluters and helped found a nonprofit dedicated to ensuring literacy in disadvantaged communities.
Aiyash was also the youngest person ever elected to Hamtramck’s city commission.
From ending police brutality to focusing attention on the “caring economy” — workers giving care to children and seniors — Aiyash has a swath of policy proposals he considers to be, at least in part, carrying on Robinson’s mission. He framed himself as a fighter for social, environmental and economic justice.
“We need to fight for a politics of the possible,” Aiyash explains on his website. “Back to ‘normal’ is not and was never good enough.”
His plans also include coronavirus-related relief like ensuring that all medical costs stemming from the pandemic get covered. Given how Robinson died, this dedication is a tribute to his legacy.
“I’m conscious and sensitive to the moment and what this seat had,” he told The ‘Gander. “I look forward to bringing my leadership into the state legislature and also honoring the fight that Isaac started in his short term, his tenure in the state legislature.”
Aiyash is likely to win his November election against Republican Howard Weathington. But just because he’s favored to win doesn’t mean he is taking November for granted. Even with a likely November win in a race considered “down-ballot,” Aiyash takes voter engagement seriously.
“We’re gonna stay engaged, we’re gonna continue to provide resources,” Aiyash said. “We have a responsibility to engage people in this district to vote in historic numbers from down-election as well.”