The Republican candidates for President addressed a wide variety of topics during their last debate before the Iowa caucuses on Monday.

But one of the biggest domestic issues — Flint’s water crisis — got little attention during the Fox News debate in Des Moines, Iowa.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich was the only candidate to get a question on the Flint water issue. He was asked how he would have handled the crisis had it happened in Ohio.

Unlike Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, who have been highly critical of Gov. Rick Snyder’s handling of the lead contamination of Flint’s water, Kasich declined to bash his Republican colleague to the north.

“I don’t know all the details of what Rick Snyder has done,” he said, adding that he had heard that some people had been fired because of the crisis. “But you’ve got to be on top of it right away. Every single engine of government has to move when you see a crisis like that.”

He said it’s important to work with local and federal officials as soon as a problem is detected and listen to the citizens who elected you.

“The fact is, we work for the people,” he said. “We serve you. You don’t serve us.”


Flint Water Crisis

He compared what is happening in Flint with what happened in Toledo during the summer of 2014 when a toxic mat of algae coated Lake Erie and cut off water for a half million people for several days.

“You’ve got to go the extra mile,” Kasich said.

The lack of Republican discussion over the crisis on Thursday night stood in stark contrast to the last two Democratic debates. Clinton brought up the matter at the end of Jan. 17 debate.

“We’ve had a city in the United States of America where the population, which is poor in many ways and majority African American, has been drinking and bathing in lead-contaminated water and the governor in that state acted as though he didn’t really care,” Clinton said. “He had a request for help that he basically stonewalled.  I’ll tell you what, if the kids in a rich suburb of Detroit had been drinking contaminated water and being bathed in it, there would have been action.”

Sanders called on Snyder to resign over the contamination of the water in Flint.

Republicans haven’t had much to say about the contamination of Flint’s water and its citizens with lead, caused when corrosion controls weren’t added to water drawn from the Flint River. The more corrosive Flint water caused lead to leach from pipes into the water going into residents’ homes and businesses. High lead levels were detected in the water in early 2015, but wasn’t acknowledged by the state until October.

New York businessman Donald Trump has said he didn’t know much about it and shouldn’t comment on the issue. And Florida Sen. Marco Rubio called it a tragedy and retired pediatric neuro surgeon Ben Carson told the Huffington Post that Flint and federal officials had failed the citizens of the city. Ted Cruz said the water emergency was a failure at every level of government and some of his Michigan volunteers handed out water in Flint.

Contact Kathleen Gray: 517-372-8661, kgray99@freepress.com or on Twitter @michpoligal