By KEN THOMAS and DAVID EGGERT
FLINT, Mich. – Taking a detour from New Hampshire’s campaign trail, Hillary Clinton said Sunday that a water crisis in a Michigan city was “immoral” and demanded that Congress approve $200 million in emergency aid to address the community’s battle with lead-contaminated water.
The Democratic presidential hopeful made a quick visit to Flint, an unusual stop for a candidate trailing in polls against rival Bernie Sanders in the first primary state. Clinton hopes to use a narrower-than-expected loss in last week’s primary as a springboard into contests later this month in Nevada and South Carolina.
Clinton said she was making a “personal commitment” to help Flint in a message delivered not only to the congregants at a local Baptist church but also a more heavily-minority electorate in Southern contests that could help her build a foundation for a delegate-by-delegate drive toward the nomination.
“This is not merely unacceptable or wrong, though it is both. What happened in Flint is immoral,” Clinton said at the House of Prayer Missionary Baptist Church. She added: “I will fight for you in Flint no matter how long it takes.”
Aides said Clinton was invited by Flint Mayor Karen Weaver to address the crisis of lead-poisoned water, a case that she has cited in Iowa and New Hampshire as an example of racial and economic injustice. It is an issue that resonates among Democrats, particularly African-American voters who play a major role in later contests in South Carolina and a swath of “Super Tuesday” states on March 1; Michigan’s primary is March 8.
From the pulpit, Clinton urged Congress to provide $200 million to fix Flint’s water system, saying it was “no time for politics as usual.”
Pastor Kenneth Stewart told the crowd, which greeted Clinton enthusiastically, that America will “give birth to a president” in nine months. “Most of us in here are praying that it is a girl,” he said to loud applause. Before her remarks, Clinton said she met with two mothers whose kids’ health had worsened because of the water. She later met with a group of mostly government officials to thank them and discuss solutions.
The chair of the Michigan Republican Party, Ronna Romney McDaniel, accused Clinton with using Flint families as “political pawns” and said the visit was a “calculated campaign tactic – an attempt to grab headlines by a struggling campaign.”