Bernie Sanders mourns former state vice chair, Isaac Robinson

Sen. Bernie Sanders in Flint, March 8, 2020 | Andrew Roth

Leaders from across the state have mourned state Rep. Isaac Robinson (D-Detroit), who died at age 44 on Sunday after having COVID-19-like symptoms.

On March 7, the freshman lawmaker had been named a state vice chair for the presidential campaign of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Michigan’s primary was on March 10 and former Vice President Joe Biden won the state.

Late Sunday night, Sanders eulogized Robinson on Twitter.

“Jane and I are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of State Rep. Isaac Robinson. He served as a vice chair for our campaign in Michigan and believed strongly in a fairer future for all. Our thoughts are with his family and loved ones,” he wrote.

Updated: Rep. Isaac Robinson dies at age 44, COVID-19 suspected

When endorsing Sanders, Robinson noted that his mother, former state Rep. Rose Mary Robinson (D-Detroit), was one of the few officials to back the U.S. senator in 2016.

“Like my mother, state Rep. Rose Mary C. Robinson did four years ago, I am proud to endorse Bernie Sanders for President,” Isaac Robinson said. “Bernie’s message is consistent with Dr. Martin Luther King’s call for social and economic justice. As we battle poverty, environmental racism, mass incarceration and wage inequality, we need a trusted, proven leader and champion for justice, like Bernie Sanders as our next President of the United States of America.”

Robinson, an attorney elected to his seat in 2018, had been feeling ill and having trouble breathing. He died at Detroit Receiving Hospital from a suspected COVID-19 infection, according to his family, although he had not been tested. State Rep. Tyrone Carter (D-Detroit) first confirmed the news Sunday evening to the Michigan Advance.

“He was my guy,” Carter said, adding that he was “young, smart and funny.”

Carter was the first state lawmaker to announce he tested positive for coronavirus. He said he’s “out of the woods” and feeling better.

Several members of Congress have tested positive for COVID-19, including U.S. Sen Rand Paul (R-Ky.), U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-S.C.), U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) and Rep. Ben McAdams (D-Utah). More members are self-quarantined and awaiting test results.

Detroit has been hit hard by COVID-19, the disease caused by a new coronavirus. In Michigan, there are now 5,486 positive cases, as of 3 p.m. Sunday, although state officials believe the actual number of cases is much higher. The state reports 132 people have died of COVID-19.

Almost half of the state’s cases are found in Wayne County, and in Detroit alone, which is Michigan’s only city with its own health department, there have been 1,542 cases and 35 deaths reported. Combined with the rest of Wayne County’s numbers, those add up to 2,704 cases and 56 deaths in that county.

Other Sanders surrogates also remembered Robinson.

“This hits home,” said U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit). “State Rep. Isaac Robinson was full of life and loved his residents. Our community won’t be the same without him.”

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, a 2018 gubernatorial candidate who spoke at large Sanders rallies before the primary in Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor, wrote on Twitter that Robinson “was one of those rare public servants who brought his whole self to the people he served. He worked for them, fought for them, and grieved for them. Today, we grieve for him. Detroiters have lost a leader who loved them deeply.”

Abdul El-Sayed at a Sen. Bernie Sanders rally in Ann Arbor, March 8, 2020 | Andrew Roth

State Rep. Abdullah Hammoud (D-Dearborn) wrote on Twitter: “Absolutely devastated to report we lost a champion of the people, Rep. Isaac Robinson. He was among the few you would follow into battle because he always led with his heart. Until we meet again, my friend.”

Detroit City Council Member Mary Sheffield wrote on Twitter: “His heart and passion for people and justice was so genuine and real. I admired his public service and boldness to stand for what he believed! Detroit will miss you my friend. Thanks for being a true example of a public servant.”

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Susan J. Demas is a 19-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 3,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 60 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.