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Photo: AZPM

Republican Jesse Kelly is highlighting the support he's getting from Southern Arizona seniors, saying he'll protect Social Security and Medicare benefits for seniors who have already paid into those programs.

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He held a news conference Thursday to showcase the support. Vince Leach, a Kelly supporter, said Kelly will do a better job representing seniors than Democrat Ron Barber, Kelly's opponent in the race to fill the vacant seat in Congressional District 8.

"Jesse is willing and able to go into Washington, bring fresh new ideas," Leach said. "He comes from a generation that wants to do something about the problem, not just talk about it."

Thursday Kelly also released a new ad featuring his grandfather.

See the ad here:

Kelly says he will use revenue from domestic oil, natural gas, and coal energy sources to pay for continuing benefits for seniors who have already paid into Social Security and Medicare.

“What we said in 2010, in 2009, in 2011, and now in 2012 is that we have to protect the benefits that seniors have earned. That’s what we’ve said then, it’s what we’re saying now, it’s what we will always say, because these are not welfare programs, these are programs people have paid into all their lives, and we will honor our commitments," Kelly says.

But in 2010, Kelly said Medicare and Social Security must be phased out and privatized. (Watch Kelly comment on Social Security and Medicare, starting at 46:34 in this 2010 Arizona Public Media forum.)

At Thursday's news conference, Kelly and his spokesman didn’t answer questions about what kinds of programs Kelly supports for future generations. Campaign spokesman John Ellinwood instead referred such questions to the campaign website.

"I support preserving, protecting and strengthening Social Security and Medicare. I do not support privatizing, eliminating or phasing out these programs in any way," the site says.