LITTLE ROCK — Democratic candidate for governor Mike Ross said in a news conference Thursday that he fought to protect Social Security as a congressman and accused Republican opponent Asa Hutchinson of trying to dismantle it, a charge Hutchinson dismissed as an attempt to scare older voters.

Speaking at his Little Rock campaign headquarters with a group of 13 Arkansans age 65 and older standing behind him, Ross said the 79th anniversary of the signing of the Social Security Act was a good time to compare his record with Hutchinson’s on issues important to seniors.

"Congressman Hutchinson’s strong and long-standing support for privatizing Social Security and his pattern of choosing Wall Street over Arkansas is just more proof that he’s too out of touch to lead this state and to fight for working families and seniors in Arkansas," Ross said.

Ross said that in 2001, then-Congressman Hutchinson added his name to a letter urging the President’s Commission to Strengthen Social Security to support the option of individual accounts as part of Social Security reform.

"Privatization is not a plan to save Social Security. It is a plan to dismantle Social Security," Ross said.

Asked how the issue is relevant to the governor’s race, Ross said, "When you look at trying to choose the next governor of Arkansas, I think it’s important that we look at past performance to determine how they’re going to perform in the future, and his priorities clearly are with Wall Street and not with Arkansas seniors."

Ross also said that unlike Hutchinson, he is committed to defending the private option, Arkansas’ version of Medicaid expansion, noting that one out of seven participants in the program is over age 45. Hutchinson has said he will evaluate the program to determine whether it should continue.

Hutchinson said in a statement Thursday, "To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, there he goes again. For Mike Ross to read from the tired old Democratic playbook and use false attacks to scare our senior citizens is shameful and underestimates the people of Arkansas.

"Mike Ross’ most recent attack does not create one job in Arkansas and does nothing but mislead the voters. I have always supported a strong Social Security system, and I have fought hard for our senior citizens, and I will continue to do so as governor. If Mike Ross wants to make Social Security an issue, he should run for Congress. I am running for governor to create jobs and strengthen education."