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Todd Kaminsky, Christopher McGrath campaign for State Senate

Attorney Christopher McGrath, Republican candidate for State Senate,

Attorney Christopher McGrath, Republican candidate for State Senate, appears with members of the Inwood Fire Department in a new pollitical ad that was rolled out on Thursday, March 24, 2016. Credit: YouTube

Democrat Todd Kaminsky rallied with women’s advocacy groups Thursday and Republican Christopher McGrath released a television ad touting his legal representation of fallen firefighter’s families, as the April 19 special election to replace former State Sen. Dean Skelos drew closer.

Kaminsky, a state assemblyman from Long Beach and a former federal prosecutor, held an event outside his Oceanside campaign office to announce endorsements from pro-abortion rights and women’s groups including the National Organization for Women New York and Planned Parenthood of Nassau County’s political action fund.

McGrath, a Hewlett personal injury attorney, is described in his latest ad as providing legal services to survivors of firefighters killed in the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. A narrator says McGrath “successfully fought in court to make sure they received the benefits they deserved,” and “refused to be paid.”

The groups that endorsed Kaminsky cited his “unwavering” pro-abortion rights stance and support for codifying federal abortion rights under state law. Republican state senators successfully opposed that plank of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s ‘Women’s Equality Agenda,’ while approving the rest.

“We need strong champions for women’s rights,” said JoAnn Smith of the Nassau Planned Parenthood PAC.

Some of the advocacy groups criticized McGrath’s campaign for not responding to their requests to state his positions on women’s reproductive issues.

“My opponent will not even answer basic questions posed to him by women’s organizations,” said Kaminsky.

Marcus Povinelli, a McGrath spokesman, didn’t respond to a question about McGrath’s stance on reproductive issues. But Povinelli recalled that Assembly Democrats at one point tried to hold up passage of the entire Women’s Equality Agenda — which included equal pay and anti-domestic violence initiatives — in an effort to ensure the abortion component was included. “Unfortunately, Todd Kaminsky keeps trying to play politics with this issue,” Povinelli said.

To back up McGrath’s new ad, his campaign provided a 2004 open letter from the Uniformed Firefighters Association, which represents FDNY firefighters, to the New York Bar Association. The letter says McGrath’s law firm, Sullivan Papain Block McGrath & Cannavo, served as the union’s general counsel and helped create the federal Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund.

The letter said the firm “went well beyond” assisting with the fund to represent, “for absolutely no fee,” 362 injured firefighters or families of slain firefighters in their applications for fund compensation. The campaign confirmed Thursday that McGrath was involved in the cases.

Kaminsky’s campaign has previously criticized McGrath for other portions of his legal career, including once representing a local GOP club led by a Skelos friend.

The April 19 special election to replace Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), the former Senate Majority Leader convicted last year of federal corruption crimes, may determine which party leads the chamber. The GOP holds a narrow majority in the Senate, aided by a coalition with a group of breakaway Democrats.

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