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Democrats Clinton and Sanders clash in presidential debate in Flint


Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders didn’t agree on much during Sunday’s debate in Flint.

But both want Republican Governor Rick Snyder to resign for his administration’s handling of the Flint water crisis.

“His dereliction of duty was irresponsible. He should resign,” Sen. Sanders (D-VT) said from the stage at the Whiting auditorium.  A statement which drew applause from the partisan audience. 

A few minutes later, Hillary Clinton echoed Sanders’s call.

“I agree, the Governor should resign, or be recalled,” Clinton told the audience, drawing equally enthusiastic applause.   It was the first time Clinton called for Michigan's governor to resign over his handling of  Flint's drinking water crisis. 

One person who was not applauding was Ronna Romney McDaniel.   She’s the chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party.  

She accuses both Clinton and Sanders of politicizing Flint’s water woes.

Romney McDaniel defended Gov. Snyder’s efforts to help Flint and its residents. 

“Long after the lights and cameras and candidates leave Michigan, over governor is going to be here on the ground working with the residents, as he should be,” Romney McDaniel said.

Governor Snyder has repeatedly said he will not resign. 

Later this month, a recall effort against the governor will be launched. 

After the agreement on what should happen with Michigan’s governor, Clinton and Sanders disagreed, sometimes vehemently on a variety of issues.

One of the sharpest clashes came on the auto industry and Wall Street bailouts.

Clinton pointed out Sanders voted against a bail out of the nation’s banks in 2008.  Money which eventually was used to bail out automakers.

“I voted to save the auto industry. He voted against the money that ended up saving the auto industry,” Clinton charged.

Sanders says he opposed the bailout out of Wall Street. He shot back that trade policies that Clinton has supported damaged Michigan’s auto industry.

“Secretary Clinton supported virtually every one of the disastrous trade agreements written by corporate America,” says Sanders. 

Since the bailout, Michigan’s auto industry has rebounded strongly, and repaid much of the money. 

It will be up to Michigan’s Democratic voters to decide Tuesday whether Clinton or Sanders is more worthy of their support.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.