SOUTHINGTON — Republican state Sen. Rob Sampson has been at the forefront of opposition to the governor’s shutdown orders. His challenger this November, Southington business owner and Democrat Jack Perry, supports the governor’s approach.
Perry said Sampson has taken ideological stands while in the General Assembly but has done little else. Sampson said Perry has mostly dodged questions on his own platform.
Sampson and Perry are both running for the 16th senate district seat. The district includes portions of Cheshire, Southington Prospect, Wolcott and Waterbury.
Sampson, 50, won election two years ago, replacing former state senator and Republican Joe Markley who ran for lieutenant governor. Sampson at the time was representing the 80th house district.
Sampson said he’ll continue fighting to move Connecticut in a new direction.
“That’s going to be the choice. Do you want to stick with people who believe in freedom and opportunity?” he said.
Perry, 30, wants to bring the skills and experience he’s gained starting and running a company to the state senate. He said the district needs someone who can get things done and work well with others.
“I think we need solutions. Especially with everything that’s going on,” Perry said. “That’s all I’ve seen him do over the past two months, write letters to the governor’s office.”
Perry started HQ Dumpsters and Recycling at the age of 17 with the backing of his father. Perry is operations manager of the company.
He ran as an independent Southington Town Council candidate in 2017 and narrowly missed gaining a seat.
Sampson, a real estate agent, said he’s cosponsored more than 100 laws while in the legislature. His objections have also helped shaped Gov. Ned Lamont’s initial response to the pandemic. Sampson urged Lamont not to increase unemployment insurance rates on businesses, and the governor agreed.
“There’s a letter I wrote to the governor that did something,” Sampson said.
Both men said their businesses had been hurt by the pandemic and shutdown orders. Perry said people staying at home generate more trash and while the cost to haul that trash goes up the rates don’t. Sampson said he’s only had a fourth of the sales he’d normally have at this time of year.
They differed in their assessment of Lamont’s executive orders and the use of his emergency power.
Sampson at first supported Lamont’s efforts. But since the concern about overcrowded hospitals passed, he’s opposed the governor’s continued use of executive orders.
“Flattening the curve was accomplished weeks ago,” Sampson said. “The governor continues to pass more and more executive orders.”
He’s preparing a lawsuit that alleges Lamont has overstepped his authority. Sampson said he’s getting calls and texts daily from constituents who are concerned about the overreach of state government during the pandemic.
“People who’ve never taken a nickel from the government have been forced, by circumstances not of their own making, to stand in line for food,” Sampson said. “I don’t think any of it is necessary.”
Perry said he’s concerned about reopening the state too quickly.
“I want to see our businesses open, I want to see our state open,” he said. “At the same time, I’ve known so many people who have lost loved ones.”
Opening up before neighboring states might draw people to Connecticut and risk infection. Businesses need to prepare before letting customers back in.
“You still can’t get PPE, you can’t get Clorox wipes,” Perry said. “We’ve got to crawl before we walk.”
As a challenger and Southington resident, Perry said he’d have to work hard to connect with voters in the other towns of the 16th district. He’s planning to do that virtually, although he hopes door knocking will take place later.
“It’s going to be challenging, it’s going to be different. At the same time, I’m going to give it my all,” Perry said.
Sampson is also hopeful for door knocking and in-person campaigning but said it may be months before that happens.
“I think a lot of this election cycle is going to take place on social media, radio, TV,” he said.