In this 2020 political climate, one major question that often gets asked about the candidates running for office is, who will be a divider and who will be a uniter?
In the battle for the 16th State Senate District between Republican incumbent Rob Sampson and his Democratic opponent Jack Perry, both candidates have been determined to show they are the unifer in the race.
Perry, a local business owner who is brand-new to the political scene, has criticized his opponent’s voting record throughout the course of the campaign, calling out Sampson for his dogged “no” votes on what Perry sees as critical legislation.
“I feel like a lot of times Rob likes to stir the pot for no good reason,” Perry said. “Voting ‘no’ without a solid reason why gets exhausting for most people, and I think the constituents have become exhausted with Rob Sampson.”
While Sampson does pride himself on his voting record, he insists that he would never vote “no” for no reason, and believes strongly that his votes are often indicative of what those in his District believe is right.
“I have a long record, and I try to do my job to the best of my ability,” Sampson said. “I am not afraid to vote ‘no.’ I am proud of my ‘no’ votes. I have taken the 35-to-1 vote, I have taken one for the team multiple times. Often behind the scenes people will tell me they are supporting my vote, but they are not brave enough to do so. I don’t mind taking the principled vote when I feel it’s necessary.”
Perry, however, has focused his campaign on showing voters what he believes they’ve been missing.
“If I go to Hartford, the first thing I want to do is bring all the concerns that I have heard from my constituents (while) going door to door to the forefront,” Perry explained. “I strongly believe we are going to have a big recession in 2021 and people are concerned about their jobs. I am also against tolls, which I know will be a big issue in 2021.”
Like almost all candidates, including Sampson, this election season has seen most campaigning done in front of a video camera due to COVID-19 restrictions. However, the format has recently landed Perry in some hot water for the backdrop featured in many of his campaign videos.
According to a complaint filed on Oct. 1 by Steve Kalkowski, the chairman of the Southington Republican Town Committee, Perry has been accused of “using state election funds to advertise his own business in a district where he has both significant residential and commercial contracts.” Perry’s company, HQ Dumpsters & Recycling, is featured prominently in many of his ads.
“I reference my company in terms of what I’ve created. There are no advertisements of rates or phone numbers to try to use my business,” Perry explained.
Perry started his business in 2008, and stated that he is proud of what he has been able to create for the community.
“They like to complain about me a lot,” Perry said, laughing. “They like to say that my ads are too negative or I am using my business to advance my campaign, but if they don’t like me pointing out their voting record, they shouldn’t be voting that way. My business shows that I know how to create jobs and I know what the working individual is worried about, because I am worried about those things, too.”
Perry has also run numerous attack ads regarding his opponent via Facebook and direct mail to homes, ads that, according to Sampson, don’t faze him in the slightest.
“This year’s campaign has been one of the most rewarding I have ever had,” Sampson explained. “I have had over 100 volunteers come out and help with everything from door-to-door campaigning and making mailers. I have had more endorsements and a real significant grassroots campaign crop up from volunteers, too. I am not going to spend my time talking about my opponent. If he wants to do that, that’s on him. All of Mr. Perry’s claims are categorically false.”
Sampson is determined to shut out the noise and would like to concentrate on the issues that matter the most to him.
“There are big issues facing this state. Some of them have to do with our finances, obviously, rising crime rates, and how do we bounce back after a global pandemic like this,” he said.
Sampson has received the endorsement of the Southington Police Union, and he is focused on reversing what he sees as bad public safety policy in Hartford.
“I think the ‘Raise the Age’ bill, which raised the age of juvenile prosecution of a crime from 16 to 18, really had a big effect on our state’s crime rates,” he explained. “I am making a commitment to try and reverse some of these bad policies that have been passed.”
Another thing Sampson is determined to fight against is the divisions seen in the legislature.
“I want to take a step back and have people really think about the way we do politics in this country,” Sampson said. “I have received more hate this year than ever. No matter who wins this presidential election, I am scared for our country and how we disagree so aggressively with one another.”