The Southington and Cheshire police unions have announced that their members have voted to endorse Republican Pam Salamone in the race for the 103rd Connecticut House District seat.
Salamone, a Cheshire resident, is challenging Democratic incumbent Liz Linehan, also a Cheshire resident. The District covers parts of Southington, Cheshire and Wallingford.
“Over the last year, the landscape of Connecticut politics has taken a turn for the worse. The priorities and safety of working families has been abandoned and ignored for an agenda that has and will raise Town budgets and make our towns less safe,” read a news release from the Southington Police union.
The release cited the police accountability bill that was signed into law last month as the impetus for the endorsement.
Linehan was one of 86 members of the state House of Representatives to vote “yes” on the measure, which passed both legislative chambers along party lines. The measure received 58 “no” votes in the House of Representatives.
“It has become a matter of extreme urgency for the men and women of the Southington Police Union to look for the leadership and independent thinking that Pam Salamone displays,” the union's statement read. “Rep. Linehan has shown our community and her Police Officers that the priorities of our state’s cities outweigh the priorities of Southington, Cheshire, and Wallingford.”
In a written statement to the Record-Journal on Monday, Linehan refuted the Southington union's position.
“The Southington Police Union endorsed me in 2018, and we worked closely on important legislation that positively impacted officers across the state,” Linehan wrote. “I co-wrote landmark police PTSD legislation and bills to allow retired SPD officers to become school security guards while protecting their pensions, connected Sgt. Salerno with the authors of the police bill to advocate their position, and had the Governor enact an Executive Order during Covid — specifically at SPD’s request.
“Even though the Southington Police Union has chosen to endorse a candidate who will likely work to reduce police pay, end their pensions, and lessen their benefits, I remain committed to working in the best interest of the entire community, and supporting municipal and state police departments,” she added.
Southington Police Sgt. Stephen M. Salerno, the union's president, said the union's decision to back Salamone was unanimous.
“We pleaded with Rep. Linehan numerous times to vote NO on the Police Accountability Bill,” the union's news release stated.
Cheshire Police Detective Eric Tracy, president of that department's union, issued a similar announcement on Tuesday saying union members voted unanimously to endorse Salamone.
“While it is very uncommon for us to become involved in the political arena, the men and women of the department feel betrayed by the current representative, Liz Linehan,” Tracy wrote. “We are looking for a leader who puts the needs, safety and best interest of the 103rd District as his or her top priority. We cannot stand by and remain silent any longer, as the citizens of our community and members of our law enforcement family are being put at greater risk by politicians who do not have their constituents’ best interest at heart.”
In 2018, the Police Officers Association of Connecticut LLC, of which the Southington Police Union is a member organization, endorsed Linehan. Salerno's signature appears on a letter the association wrote to Linehan.
“Our endorsement is based upon your support on issues that are important to police officers and their families, including your commitment to public safety and to fair working conditions and wages and benefits for the men and women who have dedicated their lives to protecting all Connecticut residents,” that letter read.
Salamone said she has been in contact with union leadership to “make sure they are fully aware that they have my full support.” She promised, if elected, to help repeal what she said were “bad parts of the bill,” including provisions regarding use of force and civil liability. Salamone said the latter is likely going to cost towns “hundreds of thousands” of dollars in insurance and litigation expenses.
“There are parts in there that are completely tying the hands of law enforcement,” Salamone said.
Salamone feels costs associated with the bill will likely lead to police departments being staffed with fewer officers.
“It's my fear this is leading toward defunding the police,” she said.
Larry Dorman, spokesman for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 4, with which the Wallingford Police Union is affiliated, wrote in an email that the council “is currently beginning our statewide endorsement process, which is a multi-step program culminating with our members voting on recommendations in September.”
Dorman said it was too early to comment on a potential endorsement in the 103rd District race.