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Detroit — As the dust settled after a combative debate in Detroit, at least three Democratic presidential candidates continued to campaign in the city Thursday before leaving a swing state many will likely revisit in coming months. 

Former Vice President Joe Biden worked the room at Detroit One Coney Island on Woodward Avenue, while U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California followed a Detroit security officer on her daily routine as she advocated for labor organizing rights.

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Later Thursday, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker held an event at Saint Andrews Hall.

Biden vowed to beat President Donald Trump in Michigan's general election should he win the Democratic primary.

“They know me,” he said of Michigan voters after lunching with the likes of Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, Detroit Branch NAACP president Wendell Anthony, U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell of Dearborn, council president Brenda Jones and other local leaders.

“I’ve worked my whole life. I come from the middle class. I understand it. I know what’s going on. I promise you, if I get the nomination, I will win Michigan.”

Biden appeared in his element as he worked his way around the restaurant, smiling, shaking hands, posing for pictures and talking with voters. 

He told 16-year-old James Heath of Detroit to try to be cognizant of other people’s problems and find ways to help.

“I thought that was some great life advice,” Heath said. “It was a great experience.”

Biden spoke with reporters after the lunch, reflecting on a bruising Wednesday debate that saw him fight back against attacks from several fellow Democrats, including criticism of immigration deportation policies under former President Barack Obama.

“I was a little surprised at how much the incoming was about Barack, the president,” Biden said. ”I’m proud to have served with him. I’m proud of the job he did. I don’t think he has anything to apologize for.”

Anthony hasn’t endorsed in the Democratic primary but is “enthusiastic” about the field and said Biden is “the best thing going” so far.

“I think Vice President Biden, by virtue of where he’s been, what he’s done, brings so much to the table,” Anthony said. “I think (candidates) need to spend more time talking about this guy who’s in the White House right now and what he has not done, as opposed to what’s been done in the past.”

Harris continued her trek through Detroit by touring the apartment complex of SecurAmerica employee Delores McDaniel, who guards a downtown building but struggles to make ends meet. She took a short bus ride with McDaniel down Woodward Avenue near the old State Fair Grounds and then introduced her to waiting reporters downtown across from Hart Plaza.

Harris backed McDaniel’s effort to form a union “so that the security guards that in many ways not only serve the community but really lift up the community, so that they receive the dignity of that hard work through their ability to collectively bargain”

“She has been here protecting the property for the property owners,” the senator said. “She comes in in the afternoon and works late into the night. She has a two-hour commute to get here. She also does not get sick leave. She does not get paid family leave.”

McDaniel said the economy for her is “up and down” but with “good union jobs” it would be better.

Harris defended her debate performance to reporters in which her record as a California prosecutor and attorney general were attacked by Biden and U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.

“This is the nature of this process that we will have debates and that we will have to defend our position and we will have differences of opinion and that’s to be expected,” she said. “The pundits and people who are experienced … will say that if you’re considered a front runner you should be prepared to take the hits.”

When asked if the sparring with Gabbard and Biden became too personal, Harris defended her record and said “there were certainly inaccuracies” and lambasted Gabbard as being an “apologist for Assad” in Syria.

“I take those attacks with only so much seriousness and credibility,” she said. “In terms of what we need on a debate stage, I strongly believe that we need environment and moments, not just one, where we can have meaningful conversations about issues. And I hope that that will occur.”

On Thursday, Cory Booker’s campaign hosted a “Detroit Rise” event at St. Andrew’s Hall downtown.

Speaking to a large crowd at the concert hall, the New Jersey senator noted his relatives’ Detroit roots and called it the “city that brought my family out of poverty. I love this city because it reminds me of this defiant spirit in America.”

The former Newark, New Jersey, mayor contrasted the support for reviving Detroit and other urban areas across the country with recent controversial remarks from Trump that criticized conditions in Baltimore.

“We know that we love our communities and we’re willing to fight for them,” Booker said.

The senator said that to win the general election in 2020, Democrats “don’t need a candidate that’s going to stand up and try to pull us lower” with tactics similar to Trump's.

The election, he told the crowd, is less about the current commander in chief but “a referendum on who we are and who are we are to each other and for each other. This is a referendum on civic grace.”

Booker called on voters to make 2020 a “movement” election that pushes for change in everything from voting rights to climate change and teacher salaries.

“This is a moment that demands we unite Americans,” he said. “… If we can make this election about what we can do together, then I believe that we will not just beat Donald Trump, but have the momentum to accomplish the things that we must accomplish.”

joosting@detroitnews.com

lfleming@detroitnews.com

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