(CNN) - In the New York race to fill ex-Rep. Anthony Weiner's seat, Democrats went after Republican candidate Bob Turner Thursday for criticizing the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, a federal bill that provides financial aid to first responders after the Sept. 11 attacks.
On Wednesday Turner questioned whether volunteers should be among those benefiting from the bill, which also covers police, firefighters, emergency workers, and construction workers, in an editorial board interview with the New York Daily News.
In response, Democratic candidate David Weprin released a round of robo-calls Thursday from John Feal, a 9/11 activist and volunteer who lost his foot from an injury at Ground Zero.
"Congressional candidate Bob Turner doesn't think this act is a good idea. He should be ashamed of himself," Feal said in the call. "We must all remember the great sacrifices made by New York's heroes on that fateful day. Bob Turner should remember too."
Turner and Weprin are running to fill the seat in New York's 9th congressional district, which covers parts of Brooklyn and Queens.
About $1.5 billion of the $4.2 billion-Zadroga package is slated for health benefits for rescue workers and recovery crews.
The remaining amount is used to compensate victims' families, as well as those injured while working or residing near Ground Zero.
Turner had said he thought the bill was a "little too broad" in the editorial board comments Wednesday.
"If someone said, 'I volunteered' or walked through there, it's just not the type," Turner told the paper.
Meanwhile, Turner's campaign has maintained that Weprin's response attack is a smoke screen. Spokesman William O'Reilly said the Republican would have voted for the bill with "two hands."
"Only a career politician like David Weprin would use 9/11 Healthcare money to try to get votes. His attacks are disgraceful. Of course Bob Turner supported the Zadroga Bill," said O'Reilly in a statement, adding that Turner's son-in-law is a firefighter.
O'Reilly said Turner's comments were based on questions he had about the bill last year.
"All he did was raise the question of whether there were proper protections against fraud," O'Reilly said.
Two of the bill's co-authors also blasted Turner for his remarks. Democratic Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Jerrold Nadler of New York releasted a statement Thursday saying Turner's position is "offensive."
But Republican Rep. Peter King of Long Island, who also helped draft the bill, came to Turner's support.
"I've talked to Bob Turner about it at length. He has always supported Zadroga for volunteers, cops and firefighters alike," King, who endorsed Turner, said in a statement.
This isn't the first time 9/11 has surfaced in the race–a palpable topic for a special election set to take place two days after the 10th anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks.
Turner recently released a TV ad with images of President Barack Obama and the burning twin towers, pinning Democrats for supporting the construction of an Islamic center and mosque near Ground Zero.
The ad invoked outrage from the Uniformed Fire Officers Association, which publicly came out against the TV-spot. Weprin also fired back, saying Turner was using 9/11 for political gain.
Lawmakers passed the Zadroga bill in December after a long political fight. The act is named after New York Police Department detective James Zadroga, who died from a respiratory disease thought to have stemmed from working at Ground Zero.
Republicans continue to be wrong on every issue.
turner should be tarred and feather, and run out of town for what he said ! how can any one vote for him !
A republican doesn;t stand a chance in hell of winning Rep. Weiner's seat. I don't see any pigs flying. I don't know many republicans in Brooklyn & Queens. Hey Turner.....Fuggetaboutit!!!!
Only a true politician like Mittens Romney would be able to support both sides of the issue.
When will Teahadists wake up and realize that there is supposed to be freedom of religion in the United States.
The seat will remain with the democrats. End of story.
If nothing else(and there is nothing else), Barack Obama has taught the world that democrat policies will produce nothing but total failure. American democrats have become the laughing stock of the world and for good reason.
Using the images of an American tragedy for a sleazy political ad, denying US citizens their Constitutional Rights and denying Americans healthcare they deserve – why yes he is a tea-baggin GOPer – why would you even need to ask?
Anyone remember the House GOP voting against this bill when it was first introduced?? People need to remember these things when they consider WHO to vote for.
why do republican hate the middle class?
Especially since Republicans always use 9/11 as their sympathy card, it is absolutely dispicable of them to oppose health benefits to those who came to the rescue at our darkest hours. That party continues to be a disgrace.