With less than two weeks to go before the election, Democratic candidate for Congress Emily Cain’s campaign is running a new ad attacking U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin for his decision not to co-sponsor a bill that would extend health care benefits for first responders in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The ad, released Saturday in markets across the state, features three Maine firefighters criticizing Poliquin for being the only representative from New York or New England not to co-sponsor the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act, which was proposed to extend health care benefits for 9/11 first responders and survivors who were in the New York City disaster area.

A news release from Poliquin’s campaign this week said the ad misleads voters about his voting record. There was never a vote on the reauthorization act, and he did vote for it as part of a larger appropriations bill; but a release from Cain’s campaign said more support from representatives such as Poliquin could have brought the act to its own vote before the law expired.

John Martell, president of the Professional Firefighters of Maine, also criticized Poliquin in a news release from Cain’s campaign, saying, “Poliquin failed us when the bill was in jeopardy, and tried to take credit after it was a sure thing.”

Michael Byerly, press secretary for Poliquin, did not respond Wednesday when asked why Poliquin was not a co-sponsor on the bill, but Byerly said Poliquin supported the legislation when it was included in a comprehensive appropriations bill.

The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act was proposed to extend the earlier Zadroga Act, named after James Zadroga, a New York City police detective who died of 9/11-related health problems.

The original law expired in September 2015 before being reauthorized as part of the appropriations bill in December.

Bob Burdick, a 53-year-old firefighter from Wilton who was on a 9/11 response task force and arrived in Manhattan at 11 p.m. the night of the attacks, said he didn’t want to comment on the 2nd District race; but he said the Zadroga Act has been critical to helping first responders get access to health care, especially health care that is focused on addressing lifelong problems those responders might be at risk for because of their work.

While Burdick has insurance through his wife’s job, he said for many first responders it helps provide coverage they might not have otherwise.

“Especially the New York guys, this is very important to them,” Burdick said. “Some of the medication and stuff that goes along with treatment is very expensive, and they wouldn’t be able to afford it.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm


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