At an Aug. 14 event billed as her general election kickoff, Democrat Patsy Keever sought to portray her Republican opponent, incumbent Rep. Patrick McHenry, as an extremist, highlighting their differing views on Social Security and Medicare.
Speaking in downtown Asheville in front of the Vanderbilt Apartment building, which provides subsidized housing for the elderly, she also aimed to tie McHenry to Rep. Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican who was recently tapped by presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney to be his running mate.
“By choosing Ryan as his running mate, Mitt Romney has embraced the most extreme posture of the most extreme parts of the Tea Party Republicans,” Keever told the crowd of about 25 supporters. “Bizarrely, Patrick McHenry even found a way to be more extreme than Ryan and his fellow Tea Party Republicans. On the same day he voted for the Ryan budget, McHenry voted for a budget that would have, among other things, raised the Social Security retirement age to 70. More than 100 of his fellow Republicans, including Paul Ryan, did not vote for this budget … but Patrick McHenry did.”
She finished her remarks by presenting the race for the 10th Congressional District as a simple referendum on Social Security, declaring: “If the voters want the retirement age raised to 70, vote for Patrick McHenry. If you want to keep the age 65, then vote for me.”
In response, the McHenry campaign released a statement noting that current law already raises the retirement age to 67, starting in 2027. The campaign also pointed out that the Social Security changes McHenry voted for are similar to those recommend by the Simpson-Bowles Deficit Reduction Commission, which advocated for gradually raising early and full retirement ages based on increases in life expectancy.
“When Franklin Roosevelt signed Social Security into law, average life expectancy was 64 and the earliest retirement age in Social Security was 65,” notes the Simpson-Bowles Deficit Reduction Commission report. “Today, Americans on average live 14 years longer, retire three years earlier and spend 20 years in retirement.”
McHenry supports gradually realigning the Social Security eligibility age with Americans’ growing lifespans, increasing it by 2 months per year, beginning with people born in 1958 and after, according to his campaign.
“I’m fighting for solutions to our nation’s challenges, while, sadly, my opponent is only offering negative attacks,” McHenry declared in a written statement.
In their statements, the two candidates also tried to tap into the raging national debate over Medicare, with each seeking to bind each other to national party leaders.
“The Ryan/McHenry budget,” Keever declared, “would have destroyed Medicare.”
But McHenry countered that Keever is the extremist in the race.
“Patsy Keever supports the most extreme parts of President Obama’s agenda, as she’s made clear. This extreme agenda included cutting $716 billion from Medicare to fund Obama’s government takeover of our health care system, Obamacare,” he asserted. “Now, with Medicare set to go bankrupt in 12 years, Keever and Obama have no plan to preserve Medicare for the future.”
However, with both candidates’ arguments over Medicare echoing those of their respective party leaders, a report by Politico indicates that their rhetoric may be misleading.
Meanwhile, the national parties also recently launched a pair of contentious statements over Medicare in to the 11th District race between Democrat Hayden Rogers and Republican Mark Meadows.
Both the 10th and 11th Districts were redrawn last year, making them among the most conservative in the state. Most of Asheville was taken out of the 11th District and placed in the 10th, but large portions of Buncombe County remain in the 11th.
Watch Keever deliver her Aug. 14 remarks in their entirety:
Video and photo by Jake Frankel