Embattled Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said he is “committed to the people of Flint” after Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton criticized him over his handling of the city’s ongoing lead water crisis during a debate Sunday.
“In the coming days, political candidates will be leaving Flint and Michigan,” the Republican governor said in a statement on Sunday. “They will not be staying to help solve the crisis, but I am committed to the people of Flint. I will fix this crisis and help move Flint forward. Long-term solutions are what the people of Flint need and what I am focused on delivering for them.”
Snyder argued that he has proposed more than $230 million dollars in spending on resources for Flint residents, and supplied more than 439,000 cases of bottled water.
Both Sanders and Clinton used their opening statements to urge Snyder to resign.
“The governor of this state should understand his dereliction of duty was irresponsible. He should resign,” said Sanders, who had previously called on him to step down.
Even though she has been critical of the governor, Sunday was the first time Clinton said Snyder should step resign “or be recalled.”
“And we should support the efforts of citizens to achieve that,” she added.
The debate came two days before Michigan voters head to the polls in the state’s primary. During the debate, Sanders and Clinton took questions from audience members who asked them about their plans to aid the city.
Snyder’s handling of the water crisis has also triggered protests and calls for him to be indicted. For more than a year, residents complained about the taste, smell and appearance of the water. But officials told them the water was safe. Tests later found that thousands of children have been exposed to high contamination levels of lead.
Snyder had apologized to residents for a contaminated water supply, but defended himself, saying that it was not brought to his attention until January. However, emails that were obtained by a local watchdog group revealed that one of Snyder’s advisers knew about a possible connection between Flint’s highly contaminated water supply and the surge in diagnosed cases of Legionnaires’ disease in the area since last March.