New York City's two major firefighter unions
announced Wednesday they were endorsing Sen. Hillary Rodham
Clinton's re-election bid, praising her work on their behalf after
the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that killed over three hundred
firefighters and may have left many more with debilitating
"She's been a leader out front on World Trade Center health
issues, and God knows New York City firefighters were exposed more
than any other group and we appreciate it," said Steve Cassidy,
president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association. Cassidy
presented Clinton with a bright blue UFA jacket outside a Brooklyn
firehouse as Peter Gorman, president of the Uniformed Fire Officers
Association, looked on.
"I am honored to stand here with the representatives of the
finest fire department in the entire world," Clinton said. "I'm
deeply moved and very much impressed by the dedication, hard work
and courage of firefighters of this city."
While polls show Clinton with a commanding lead over the two
Republicans vying to challenge her -- former Reagan-era Pentagon
official KT McFarland and former Yonkers Mayor John Spencer -- the
unions' endorsement of Clinton is still significant.
Dubbed "New York's finest," firefighters attained nearly a
mythic status in this city after the 9/11 attacks. Both unions
endorsed Clinton's Republican opponent, former Rep. Rick Lazio, in
the 2000 election, and they endorsed President Bush in 2004.
Cassidy shook off questions about those endorsements and their
refusal to support Clinton six years ago.
"Firefighters are skeptical of everybody," he said. "In
general, politicians have to win our support, and she has done
Among other things, Clinton has pressed for increased federal
funding for research and treatment for emergency personnel and
residents exposed to airborne contaminants after the 9/11 attacks.
The matter has taken on more urgency since last week, when a
coroner ruled that the death of a 34-year old police detective from
respiratory ailments had been directly related to his recovery work
at the Trade Center site.
On other matters, Clinton again refused to say whether she
planned to run for president in 2008, saying she remained focused
on her re-election bid. And she did not say whether she believed
embattled Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld should resign, despite
the calls from many retired generals for him to do so.
"That's for the president to decide. As far as I can tell,
Secretary Rumsfeld is doing what the president wants him to do,"
Clinton said, adding that many decisions Bush and Rumsfeld have
made about the conduct of the war "defy understanding."