Reporter: Craig Smith
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - In the special election for Arizona Congressional District 8 the issues of Social Security and Medicare have become the main battleground--with each candidate accusing the other of being a threat to those programs.
Here's a sample of political TV spots:
In a recent Jesse Kelly spot the announcer asks: "Why are they distorting Jesse Kelly's record? Because Ron Barber wants to hide that he supports Obamacare which will cut 500 Billion dollars from Medicare.
Jesse Kelly appears and says he'll protect Social Security and Medicare for Seniors.
An elderly man with Kelly says, "Don't let Ron Barber cut my benefits Jesse, I've earned them." Kelly replies, "Don't worry Grandpa, I won't."
Part of that same Kelly ad, is the beginning of a Ron Barber ad.
Kelly says, "Don't worry Grandpa," then an announcer continues: "With Jesse Kelly there's a lot to worry about." The ad cites a 2009 Tucson Weekly article when it says, "Jesse Kelly would 'love to eliminate' Social Security and Medicare." It shows a series of video clips from 2010 in which Kelly says, "Social Security and Medicare. It's the biggest Ponzi scheme in history...To privatize it, to phase it out."
We asked the candidates to explain competing---but similar claims.
KGUN9 reporter Craig Smith asked Kelly: "You're both butting heads and claiming the same thing about each other."
Kelly: "It's fairly simple to sort out if you actually look at the facts. The facts are that Ron Barber does support Obamacare. He will not support repeal of Obamacare. I absolutely will vote immediately to repeal Obamacare and in Obamacare is 500 Billion dollars in cuts to Medicare on top of 500 billion dollars in tax increases."
Ron Barber said that money does not mean any cut a patient would feel.
He told KGUN9 News: "It's false. It's a false allegation. It's not true. What that bill did was to begin to remove over time the overpayment that Medicare and our taxpayer dollars were going to Medicare Advantage programs; paying them more than they should be paid to deliver those services. Putting in place an incentive for those programs that have positive outcomes so they can in fact be paid more for that and taking away the fraud that is going on in Medicare."
Kelly says Barber ads mislead with partial quotes. At a Kelly event Friday, we didn't hear Kelly use the word privatization but he did say, he'd like to offer alternatives to the government plans as an option while making sure current recipients can keep their benefits.
In more complete articles and video of statements Kelly made in his campaign two years ago, Kelly does say the things you hear in those ads but also says nothing would happen quickly and he repeats a pledge to protect current recipients.
Ron Barber looks at those statements as reason for voters to wonder if they can trust Kelly with these programs.
-----Here's your chance to check the candidates statements for yourself:
More complete context for Kelly's would "love to eliminate" Medicare and Social Security quote is in a Tucson Weekly article of December 2, 2009.
More complete context for Kelly's 2010 quotes about Social Security and Medicare as Ponzi schemes appears about 46 minutes into a candidate debate on KUAT-TV.
Both parties often use Medicare as a political attack tool. The claim of $500 Million in Medicare cuts is especially popular. The non-partisan fact checking site Politifact.org addressed that claim and others about Medicare.