The Republican candidate for former Rep. Anthony Weiner's (D-N.Y.) seat said the 9/11 healthcare law shouldn't cover volunteers who came to the World Trade Center site to help in the recovery efforts.

In an interview with the New York Daily News editorial board Tuesday, Republican Bob Turner said the Zadroga legislation, which offers healthcare coverage for Ground Zero emergency responders, workers, volunteers and residents, is "a little too broad."


Turner said he supports the coverage of police, firefighters and other emergency personnel who responded to the Sept. 11 attacks, but not necessarily personnel who volunteered.

"My call would be to protect police, fire, emergency workers, construction workers, etc.," Turner said. "If someone said, 'I volunteered' or walked through there, it's just not the type."

President Obama signed the Zadroga measure into law last year. It was named after New York police officer James Zadroga, who died of respiratory disease that he is believed to have contracted after being at Ground Zero. Turner indicated he would have supported the legislation in Congress.

"I probably couldn't go home if I didn't support the Zadroga bill. I have firemen in my family, but is that bill beyond criticism? No," he said.

His comments will likely gain traction in the race, given that compensation for 9/11 victims is a sensitive issue in New York, particularly Weiner's old district, which includes parts of Brooklyn and Queens.

The bill wasn't universally supported by Republicans, 59 of whom in the House voted against the legislation, which they said created a new entitlement, the costs of which would be unknown.

But the New York delegation took on the bill as a group, and Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) vocally supported it (though he joined with other Republicans to insist on addressing tax issues first, before moving onto the Zadroga bill). 

"Daily Show" host Jon Stewart was also credited wth helping it pass after he criticized Republicans for blocking the legislation.

Turner is running against Democrat David Weprin for Weiner's former seat. Weiner resigned earlier this year amid a scandal surrounding the congressman having "inappropriate" correspondence with a number of women over social networking sites.

On Tuesday Weprin criticized Turner's position on the Zadroga bill.

"I'm absolutely appalled by the fact that anyone would oppose assistance for the brave volunteers who sacrificed their own health—and in, some cases, lives—to help victims and clean up Ground Zero," Weprin said in a statement. "Mr. Turner's criticism of the 9/11 Zadroga Health Bill is an embarrassment to New York, and Bob Turner should be ashamed of himself."

The district is seen as one in which Democrats have an advantage, but a poll earlier this month suggested the race was closer than expected.

Republicans have had a poor track record in recent New York special elections. In May, Democrat Kathy Hochul won in a GOP-leaning district. And, in 2009, Democrats won two special elections in the state.

The special election is Sept. 13.

UPDATE: Turner's campaign released a statement saying the candidate supports the Zadroga bill and any suggestion volunteers shouldn't be covered is "inaccurate."

"Bob Turner supported the Zadroga Bill. He has firefighters and 9/11 volunteers in his family and throughout his neighborhood. Any suggestion that volunteers should not be covered is patently inaccurate. He criticized its lack of protections against fraudulent claims when the bill was being debated a year ago, but he would have voted for it with both hands. This discussion is from 2010. Today’s debate is about jobs and the economy, and that’s where we will continue to focus our attention," campaign spokesman William O’Reilly said in the statement.

— This post was last updated at 5:45 p.m.