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Monday, June 24, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Dems Square Off on Eve of Michigan Primaries

DETROIT (CN) - From content to climate, a town hall Monday with the Democratic contenders for the U.S. presidency could not have diverted more from last week's Republican debate.

Whereas the GOP talked genital size and military strength at the snow-covered Fox Theater on Thursday night, a warm sunset fell over the historic theater in downtown Detroit where Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders went head to head for the last time before Michigan voters hit the polls for the March 8 primary.

Among two dozen protesters outside Monday's get-together at the tiny Gem Theater, Carolyn Doherty said she supports Sanders because he's "down to earth" and uncompromising with the party establishment.

"People think revolution is a scary word," said Doherty, of Royal Oak. "It isn't."

With a Monmouth University poll showing the former secretary of state ahead of Sanders by 13 points in Michigan, however, Doherty said she would still support the Democrats' nominee if Sanders loses.

"Yeah, I guess," said Doherty, making a face as if she drank lemon juice.

Doherty is part of small group called the Raging Grannies that sang their chants outside the town hall to the tune of the "She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain."

"War is a three letter word we can't ignore," Charlotte Kish of Detroit crooned softly before a woman dressed in a black shirt and black jeans burst through the Grannies' circle.

Holding a stack of petitions rubber-banded to makeshift cardboard slates, the woman says she is collecting signatures for workers' right to earn sick time. The Grannies all sign without incident.

As the crowd of protesters thinned considerably before the town hall's start at 6 p.m., Doherty spoke wistfully about the turnout Donald Trump received for his post-debate rally in Warren.

"So many young people" she said.

About 300 people from the Metro Detroit area sat inside the town hall where the event's sponsor, Fox News, had draped an extra-large U.S. flag at the back of the stage.

Though Sanders boasted about voting for the auto bailout - a popular concern among Motor City voters - the Vermont senator emphasized his opposition to the Wall Street bailout.

Taking on a Trump supporter who questioned what higher taxes would do to the small business owner, Sanders said he'd force U.S. companies to invest here instead of China to pay some of those taxes.

Sanders also denied accusations from Clinton's team that he planned to dismantle Obamacare completely, assuring a doctor in the audience that lawmakers can tweak and improve the current system.

Clinton wasn't originally scheduled to visit this town hall meeting because of a scheduling conflict but reconsidered after a rousing debate on Sunday night in Flint.

Fielding some tough questions about the current state of Libya, the front-runner characterized the situation there as "deeply regrettable."

Moderator Bret Baier also grilled Clinton on her now-infamous handling of top-secret State Department documents on her private email server. "Nothing I sent was marked classified," Clinton said, going over the records-classification process for the audience.

Taking a question from a young boy who asked if she considered Sanders an enemy or an ally, Clinton quickly answered ally, following up with examples of occasions in which she worked and compromised with others in her time as the first lady, a U.S. senator for New York and as secretary of state.

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