HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut Democrats on Friday used this weekend's fundraising visit from Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan to fire shots at two top GOP candidates, accusing them of supporting the Wisconsin congressman's contentious proposals to overhaul Social Security and Medicare.
Jonathan Harris, executive director of the Connecticut Democrats, said in a conference call with reporters that Republican U.S. Senate candidate Linda McMahon and 5th District U.S. House candidate Andrew Roraback are attempting to portray themselves to voters in this Democratic-leaning state as moderates. But he said that's not true and their positions are actually more in line with Ryan's than they want to publicly acknowledge.
McMahon has referred to herself in TV ads as an independent woman. Her campaign is touting a visit on Monday from U.S. Sen. John McCain and how McMahon, like McCain, is willing to buck her party when needed. Meanwhile, the veteran state Sen. Roraback often calls himself a moderate Republican given his position on social issues and said this week that he sees himself as an American first and a Republican second.
"Here in Connecticut, our Republican candidates have tried to paint themselves as more moderate in order to win votes in November, but their actions have told us otherwise," Harris said. "We really need to look at what they've done, not what they're trying to say in the midst of the campaign."
U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy, the Democratic candidate for Senate, repeated his criticism of McMahon for telling a group of tea party activists in April that she supports "sunset provisions" to review legislation such as Social Security "10, 15 years down the road to make sure that it's still going to fund itself."
Murphy said he believes that means McMahon wants to end Social Security in 10 years, considering the government term "sunset" means ending a program and then having to reauthorize it. McMahon's spokesman, Todd Abrajano, called Murphy's claim "absolutely, unequivocally untrue" and said McMahon only supports reviewing programs after 10 or 15 years. He said she does not support cuts to Social Security.
Murphy also accused McMahon of siding with Ryan and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on how to change the nation's Medicare program. In broad terms, Romney has called for shifting people now age 54 and younger into a different sort of Medicare. Once eligible, they would get a fixed payment from the government, adjusted for inflation, to pay for either private insurance or a government plan modeled on Medicare. Current beneficiaries and those nearing retirement could stay in the traditional program.
"The Romney-Ryan-McMahon Medicare privatization plan would result in seniors paying $6,000 more a year out of their pocket for Medicare," Murphy said during the conference call. "Now, Linda McMahon may be able to afford $6,000 more a year for Medicare, but most seniors in Connecticut can't."
Abrajano said McMahon does not support Medicare privatization or vouchers, despite Murphy's claim.
Meanwhile, Roraback said this week that he supports keeping Social Security in its present form for people 50 years old and over, despite accusations from his Democratic opponent, former state Rep. Elizabeth Esty, that he wants to raise the retirement age and cut benefits. He has said changes are needed to fix Social Security in the long run.
Neither McMahon nor Roraback planned to attend any of Ryan's events on Sunday. He is scheduled to attend a $10,000 per person roundtable discussion and $1,000 per person reception at the West Hartford home of businessman Arnold Chase; a $10,000 per person roundtable discussion and $1,000 per person reception at the Woodway Country Club in Darien; and a $10,000 per person dinner and $1,000 per person reception at the Greenwich home of state Sen. Scott Frantz.
Campaigns for both McMahon and Roraback said the candidates had conflicting events and denied they wanted to avoid being seen with Ryan.
Former Naval officer Steve Obsitnik, the 4th District Republican candidate, plans to attend the Darien fundraiser.
"He supports the Romney-Ryan ticket and he appreciates Congressman Ryan's work to move the country forward in Congress and that he's actually made an effort to put forth a plan and it's a good starting point," said Amanda Bergen, Obsitnik's campaign spokeswoman. "Whether an idea comes from a Democrat or Republican, if it's a good idea, it's worth discussing."