Republican Jesse Kelly’s new TV ad features his grandpa Hank asking him not to “let Ron Barber cut my benefits.”

Kelly, sitting beside his grandfather in the ad, answers back, “Don’t worry, grandpa, I won’t.”

“I know you’ll protect us,” answers back Hank Allgyer, a U.S. Air Force veteran.

Kelly says in the ad that he is committed to protecting Social Security and Medicare for seniors.

Protecting Medicare and Social Security have become keystone issues in the race between Kelly and Democrat Ron Barber to complete Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' term in Congressional District 8.

Barber and the Democrats have been hammering Kelly on his comments in 2009 and 2010 — during his failed attempt to win the seat — that he wanted to phase out Medicare and privatize and eliminate Social Security.

Kelly's new ad, paid for by his campaign and the National Republican Congressional Committee, addresses those accusations and repeats a Republican salvo that’s being repeatedly fired at Barber this campaign.

“Why are they distorting Jesse Kelly’s record?” the narrator asks. “Because Ron Barber wants to hide that he supports Obamacare, which will cut $500 billion from Medicare. Our seniors deserve better.”

The Affordable Care Act, which the GOP calls “Obamacare,” includes $500 billion in future spending cuts to Medicare, which will slow down spending increases for the program over 10 years.

Barber has said this campaign that the law was "far from perfect," and parts of the law need to be amended and revised. He’s said repeatedly that he was not in office to vote for the bill, and should not held accountable for all of Giffords’ votes. Barber was her district director from 2007 until she resigned in January of this year.

The Barber campaign said that no matter how much Kelly tries to distance himself this campaign from his past comments, voters should not trust Kelly to protect Medicare and Social Security.

“It’s crystal clear from Jesse Kelly’s record that you can’t count on him to do that,” a news release from Barber’s campaign says. “Jesse Kelly said he wants to eliminate Medicare over time and privatize and eliminate Social Security. Those aren’t our words, they’re Jesse’s.”

The Democratic National Congressional Committee has expanded their ad buy to $473,000, up from $150,000, for an anti-Kelly TV ad that brings up his past comments as well.

The Republican National Congressional Committee bought $300,000 in ad time for a TV ad that paints Barber as a “rubber stamp” for failed policies that have hurt Arizonans.

On Thursday, a group of senior citizens called “Seniors for Kelly” said during a press conference that Kelly is the best candidate to protect the benefits they’ve earned.

“Jesse understands that seniors have been hit very hard by this economy and that pro-growth policies and American energy production will improve opportunities, not only for seniors, but for all Americans,” said Doris Clatanoff, 80, of SaddleBrooke.

Kelly touted broad support from seniors across Southern Arizona who like his commitment to protecting their benefits. Asked at the press conference about his past comments about eliminating the programs, Kelly said he’s always been committed to protecting “benefits that seniors have earned.”

“These are not welfare programs, these are programs people have paid into all their lives,” Kelly said Thursday. “We will honor our commitments.”

When asked to elaborate on how he plans to protect Social Security and Medicare, Kelly said by growing the economy through cultivation of energy available in the United States.

“We currently have all the money we need in this nation if we would simply move government out of the way, begin to drill for oil, begin to drill for natural gas, clean coal,” Kelly said. “We are sitting on top of a mountain of money. If we embrace energy, get the government obstructions out of the way, that will bring in the revenue we need to not only create jobs, not only reduce gas prices, but it will fund the benefits that seniors have earned.”

Early ballots go out on May 17 in the CD8 special election, which will be held on June 12. Voters will be choosing between Barber and Kelly and Green Party candidate Charlie Manolakis to complete the term of former Giffords, who resigned in January to focus on her recovery from being shot in the head. Both Barber and Kelly plan to run in the new CD2 in November.

 Stay tuned to the Pueblo Politics blog throughout 2012 for news, updates and information about Arizona politics. You can follow the bloggers on Twitter — Arizona Daily Star reporters Brady McCombs, Becky Pallack and Tim Steller — by clicking on our names.