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Stefanik in Glens Falls

Republican Party and Conservative Party congressional candidate Elise Stefanik holds a press conference on Monday, Aug. 25, 2014, in front of Glens Falls Senior Center. (Maury Thompson - mthompson@poststar.com)

Maury Thompson

GLENS FALLS -- Republican and Conservative Party congressional candidate Elise Stefanik abruptly ended a press conference and walked away when reporters asked for specifics about her position on Medicare and Social Security coverage for future generations of retirees.

Stefanik held a press conference Monday in front the Glens Falls Senior Center to reiterate her position that no changes should be made in Social Security and Medicare for “our seniors today.”

Stefanik said the federal government has a commitment to those who have paid into the program for years.

“So then, my commitment is protecting and preserving these programs for our seniors with no changes to those who are in or near retirement, because they have paid in to these programs,” she said.

When a reporter asked her to define “In or near retirement,” Stefanik abruptly ended the press conference and walked away from reporters.

The press conference was scheduled to last 30 minutes, according to a media advisory her campaign sent out in advance.

But Stefanik ended the press conference after eight minutes.

Stefanik took six questions, five of which were about Medicare and Social Security, before walking away.

Responding to the first question, she said the cow that appears in her television commercial that began airing on Monday is named Success, and belongs to Dawn Sharfs, a Washington County farmer who is on her campaign’s agriculture advisory panel.

Earlier, Stefanik said Democratic and Working Families Party candidate Aaron Woolf has been “peddling political scare tactics and party talking points” to mislead voters about her position on Medicare.

She criticized Woolf for supporting President Obama’s health care reform plan, which changes Medicare payment methodology for medical providers.

“The reality is this: Aaron Woolf is the only candidate who supports cuts to Medicare to pay for Obamacare,” she said.

According to FactCheck.org, a program of the nonpartisan Annenberg Policy Center at University of Pennsylvania, the change under the health care reform law is “a cut in the future growth of spending over a decade,” not a cut to current Medicare spending.

Woolf had a busy schedule on Monday afternoon and was not available to comment, said his spokesman, Yianni Varonis.

In a prepared statement, Woolf said, “She still refuses to say whether or not she supports her friend Paul Ryan’s plan to end the Medicare guarantee.”

Ryan, a congressman from Wisconsin, has proposed a “premium support” program for future retirees, under which the federal government would provide stipends for Medicare recipients to buy coverage from private insurance companies. That concept is similar to the supplemental Medicare prescription plans.

FactCheck.org has criticized Democrats for implying that Ryan’s plan would apply to current Medicare recipients.

Stefanik was a debate preparation adviser on Ryan’s 2012 vice presidential campaign, and Ryan has endorsed her congressional candidacy and contributed, through his political action committee, to her campaign fund.

In interviews with The Post-Star on Aug. 19 and April 15, Stefanik would not say whether she supports Ryan’s Medicare proposal.

Asked in April if she agrees with Ryan’s age cutoff of 55 and younger to no longer receive traditional Medicare, she said, “I’m going to take a good look at it. I have to study it first.”

Asked at the press conference on Monday if there should be any changes in Medicare or Social Security for those retiring 10, 20 or 30 years from now, she said, “We need to make sure these programs exist in the future. Social Security and Medicare are on a path to insolvency for our future generations. So my commitment today is to reiterate my support to no changes to Medicare and Social Security for our seniors today.”

Asked how she would “protect and preserve” Medicare for future generations, she said,

“I’m willing to have a conversation with anyone regardless of party affiliation about ideas and how we can protect and preserve these programs. ... I’m willing to roll up my sleeves and solve these issues instead of kicking the can down the road, which is what Washington has been doing for generations, frankly.”

Also at the press conference on Monday, Bill Osborn of Queensbury, father of Ben Osborn, a local soldier killed in Afghanistan in 2010, spoke in support of Stefanik’s campaign.

“I know Elise and have spoken to her about these important issues,” he said, referring to Social Security and Medicare.

Stefanik, a plywood company vice president and former White House policy adviser from Willsboro, and Woolf, a filmmaker from Elizabethtown, are running in the 21st Congressional District.

U.S. Rep. Bill Owens, D-Plattsburgh, is not seeking re-election in the district.

The Green Party candidate is Matt Funiciello, a bread company owner and political activist from Glens Falls.

Funciello has said the Medicare program should be expanded to provide mandatory coverage for everyone, and the cap on income subject to Social Security taxes should be increased.

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