US presidential polls

Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders spar in Brooklyn debate

USA-ELECTION/ (File) Latest polls showed that Clinton is leading in New York

Democrat front-runner Hillary Clinton and her rival Bernie Sanders aggressively challenged each other on Thursday night's Democratic debate in Brooklyn, New York, sparring over issues like how high to raise the minimum wage and gun control.

The debate was hosted by TV channels CNN and NY1 News and comes only a few days ahead of the New York's critical primary on April 19.

It's the first debate the two Democratic candidates have done in over a month, CBS News reported.

Latest polls showed that Clinton is leading in New York.

A Quinnipiac University poll released on Tuesday found 53 per cent of likely Democratic voters back her while 40 per cent said they are for Sanders.

Sanders delivered first opening statement and said he started in the race 70 percentage points behind Clinton and referred to two recent polls that had Sanders ahead in the Democratic race. He noted that of the last nine caucuses and primaries, he won eight of them by landslides.

Clinton touted her eight years as a US senator representing New York from 2001 until 2009. She praised the state's recovery after the September 11, 2001, attacks and took a swipe at Texas Senator and Republican candidate Ted Cruz who has mocked "New York values".

When asked Clinton if she was seriously blaming Vermont for New York's gun violence in a recent statement, she said "no" and Sanders started to laugh.

She said this is "not a laughing matter" and said 90 people a day are killed as a result of gun violence as well as 33,000 people per year.

"We need a president who will stand up against the gun lobby," Clinton said.

The candidates also sparred over raising the federal minimum wage, with Sanders expressing surprise as Clinton voiced support for efforts to set the hourly pay rate at $15, the level he has long backed.

"I don't know how you're there for the fight for 15 when you say you want a $12 minimum wage," he said. Clinton then clarified that while she does support a $12 per hour federal minimum wage, she would sign legislation raising that level to $15.

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