The 2020 presidential election has been one of the most hyperbolic in modern American history, but it’s not just national politics that is heated this campaign season.
One of the most closely followed political races for Cheshire residents is the one in the 103rd District between incumbent Liz Linehan, D-Cheshire, and her Republican opponent, Pam Salamone, also a Cheshire resident. The district includes parts of Cheshire, Wallingford and Southington.
Linehan’s campaign has been focused on reflecting the work she has been doing since the virus reached Connecticut.
“Since March, all I have been doing, or all that my staff and I have been diligently working on, is getting people what they need and helping my constituents navigate this pandemic,” said Linehan. “We are trying to help get people their paychecks, get their businesses back up, and anything else they might need help with.”
While Linehan prides herself on her accessibility to her constituents, especially via social media, Salamone has committed to being just as accessible.
“I am an open door, truly,” Salamone said. “You can contact me whenever, you can show up at my door if you really want to. I want to be there for my constituents when they need it and help represent them at every level. Before COVID, I used to bring cookies around all the time. I can’t do that now, but I am still just as open.”
Salamone is new to running for office, although she is no stranger to politics, having worked for former State Sen. Joe Markley, who served in the 16th District.
“I want to fix our state’s spending issues,” she said. “We have a lot of bad policies that need to be addressed in Hartford.”
Over the summer, Salamone received the endorsement of both the Cheshire and Southington police departments. In previous races, Linehan has received support from both departments, but her vote on the recent police accountability bill in Hartford changed that.
The bill was drafted in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd — an unarmed Black man who died while in the custody of Minneapolis police officers in May of this year — and the ensuing protests against police brutality. The new law, which ultimately passed the state legislature and was signed by Gov. Ned Lamont, mandates that Connecticut officers wear body cameras, bans the use of chokeholds, and creates a new independent inspector general to investigate claims of police brutality, among other things.
“The police are on everyone’s side, and the bill that was passed in Hartford will greatly affect the way the police, and even firefighters, do their jobs,” Salamone said. “I am worried that this bill will create more problems for everyone.”
While the endorsement news was a blow to Linehan’s campaign, she is adamant that her record speaks for itself when it comes to supporting the police.
“I think it’s unfortunate that the police union decided to get involved in the race, but I do not believe that anyone can say that I don’t have a history of supporting the police,” Linehan stated. “I have written laws that would allow retired police officers to work without losing their pensions. During COVID, there was a worry that staffing would go down due to the pandemic, but I made sure retired officers could go back and work if they wanted to. It’s unfortunate that police officers are being used as pawns in a political game. This bill was not an attack on the police that they [Republicans] make it out to be.”
Another issue where Linehan and Salamone are at odds is the possibility of forced school regionalization. The longstanding issue of whether or not to regionalize smaller Connecticut school districts has been controversial since the beginning, and Salamone has accused Linehan of voting in favor of regionalization multiple times.
“I found out recently … that Liz has voted and supported school regionalization four times, and that is really distressing and disappointing to me,” Salamone commented. “Liz voted (as a member of the) Education Committee on four bills, three of which are clear on regionalization.”
According to Salamone, Linehan, during the Education Committee meeting on March 29, stated that “it does seem like it’s a step towards regionalization, which my district is wholeheartedly against,” but later voted for the bill.
Linehan has countered that the bills in question did not put the issue of regionalization up for a vote, but rather that she simply supported measures to further study the possibility of districts sharing resources. A look at the bills shows that language referring specifically to school regionalization was ultimately removed through the public hearing process.
Some of the bills also referenced sharing superintendents who work for “smaller” school districts, but Linehan is adamant that Cheshire would not be a part of those discussions.
Linehan insists that her votes were not cast in favor of regionalization and were only in support of looking further into money-saving measures for the state. Linehan also accused Salamone of spreading misinformation among her constituents.
“I’m very disappointed that, once again, an opponent is stoking fear with misinformation,” Linehan said. “Pam Salamone is either outright lying, or she doesn’t understand the legislative process. Either of those reasons for her false claims should be concerning to voters. The regionalization bill was changed to become a task force studying the savings associated with things like buying software at a multi-town level, or getting better deals on computers by buying them in bulk, for example. It’s an economic principle called Purchasing Economies of Scale, and the bill I voted for could save our school district millions of dollars. If Pam Salamone doesn’t think we owe it to taxpayers to find ways to save money, then she shouldn’t be running for office.”
Salamone, however, balked at the notion that she doesn’t understand the process or is intentionally spreading misinformation.
“Her stating that I am lying couldn't be farther from the truth and not something I ever do. To state that I do not understand the process is also something that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Changing any bill to a study at any point in the process just means they likely couldn’t get it through committee as stated, so they changed it to a study. The intent is clear,” she countered.
Salamone would ultimately like to separate herself from Linehan in one big way — her pro-business mindset.
“I’ve run a business before, and I understand what it takes to run one and all the small pieces that come together, and I just don’t think Liz gets that,” she said.
Meanwhile, Linehan believes running on her record will secure her a third term as her district’s representative.
“I work for everyone. If I represent you, I am here to help you. I hope my constituents realize that. It’s the part of the job that is the most important and the most valuable,” she stated. “My constituents know me, they know I am there for them and they know that I want to help.”