Congress candidate says "headache" led to comment on raising retirement age to 70

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by BRAD WATSON

WFAA

Posted on October 15, 2010 at 10:15 PM

Social Security is breaking out as an issue in the campaign for the central Texas congressional seat held by Democrat Chet Edwards that's taken on national importance.

Republicans believe it's one of the seats they can win to take back control of the House.

The district runs from the southern edge of Fort Worth through Waco to Bryan.

In interviews for News 8’s "Inside Texas Politics," Edwards and his Republican opponent, Bill Flores, held differing views on whether the retirement age should be raised to 70 - until one of them started backpedaling.

Edwards is fighting to keep the seat he's held for 20 years from Flores.

On the question of whether social security and Medicare must be reformed, with perhaps cuts or higher taxes, they both agree.

“We have to get control of entitlement spending that represents about 60 percent of federal budget expenditures," Edwards said.

While Flores, a retired oil and gas executive from Bryan, explained, “I accept the fact that they are, it's going to have to be materially modified to make it better.”

The two programs are vital to the 77,000 people over 65 in congressional district 17.

One solution offered by some Republicans and Democrats is to raise the Social Security retirement age to 70.

Here they differ with Edwards saying, “Well, I would not vote to raise the retirement age to 70 because there are just too many Americans that work hard all their lives and just simply physically couldn't work until they are 70.”

But Flores said, “I'd have to look at what the actual economics are. I'm not philosophically opposed to raising the retirement age.’

But later Flores called News 8 saying he had a "headache" during the Tuesday interview and "misspoke" and asked for his comments not to air.

Friday he reversed himself and in a statement said, "Voters should be assured that I absolutely do not support raising the retirement age for Social Security."

Edwards responded in a statement that while he opposes raising the retirement age "with Mr. Flores, it depends which day of the week you ask him."

With the election two weeks off voters may want more answers from Flores who said in the interview, “I accept the fact that I may have to raise my retirement age for that.”

The extended interviews with Edwards and Flores will air on "Inside Texas Politics" Sunday morning at 9:00 a.m. on WFAA-TV, Channel 8.

E-mail: bwatson@wfaa.com

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