Southington Democrat to challenge Sampson for 16th Senate seat

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A former Southington fire board member and Democrat is challenging an incumbent Republican senator this fall.

State Sen. Rob Sampson, 52, a Republican from Wolcott, is running for his third term representing the 16th Senate District. The district covers Southington, Wolcott, Prospect and parts of Cheshire and Waterbury.

Chris Robertson, 57, a Democrat and previous Senate candidate, is challenging Sampson for the seat. Robertson served on the Southington Board of Fire Commissioners and also served in Cheshire town government when he lived there.

Sampson said he hopes to return to Hartford for a third term to tackle the rising cost of living, crime and taxes.

“We definitely need to make better policy on a state level to reverse the trend and make Connecticut a more attractive place,” he said.

Robertson said he’ll be able to work more effectively with both parties and would consider only the interests of his constituents.

“When I was a fire commissioner, I worked on both sides of the aisle,” he said. “I’m not going to vote ‘no’ or ‘yes’ unless I absolutely believe in the bill that’s going to come up.”

Previous Senate run, finance board

Eight years ago, Robertson ran unsuccessfully for the state Senate under the Working Families party. He’d hoped to run as a Democrat but missed the deadline for the party’s nomination.

Robertson lost to Southington Republican Joe Markley but said this race will be different.

“This time, we’re doing everything on time,” he said. “I got all the delegates, I had my convention last Tuesday and got the nod from all five towns.”

Last year, Robertson left the Democratic Party and became a Republican to run for the Southington Board of Finance. When that party didn’t nominate him, he tried to gather signatures as a petitioning unaffiliated candidate but fell short by the August deadline.

Robertson has switched back to the Democratic Party. He’s encouraged by a change in leadership with Southington Democrats following November’s municipal election loss and larceny charges against former party treasurer Jim Sinclair.

“There was a lot of cleaning house that needed to be done in the Democratic Party in Southington, and they did it,” Robertson said.“That’s 100 percent the reason I came back to the Democratic Party. It’s not the people I thought that were hurting the party.”

Tackling ‘overtaxation,’ crime

Sampson said he’s been glad to support recent legislation to crack down on juvenile crime, including penalties for youths convicted of stealing cars. He said legislators need to continue to roll back legislation he feels removed consequences for young offenders that in part led to vehicle crimes. It’s an issue that has worried constituents, he added. 

“I’ve got people sending me their Ring (video) doorbell footage by email,” Sampson said.

Sampson said the state has more funds than it needs due to increased tax receipts and federal pandemic money.

Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont has proposed one of the largest tax cuts in state history at more than $660 million over the next year, but it represents a fraction of the $8 billion in budget reserves the state expects to have by June 30, according to The Connecticut Mirror.

“The state is awash with cash,” Sampson said. “I believe we should be returning the surplus back to taxpayers.”


Robertson said he’d do a better job of working with both parties than Sampson, adding he feels the Republican isn’t representing the majority of people in his district.

“You need to have people who are going to listen to what is good for the majority and not what is good for the minority,” he said.

If re-elected, Sampson said he’ll continue to fight for individual liberties as well as municipal control. Both are under attack by Democrats in Hartford, he said.

“I think people know who I am and what I stand for,” Sampson said. “I’m confident I’ll be re-elected because I believe I represent the five towns (in the district).”

Sampson said he’s raised the financial support needed to qualify for public campaign financing. He got a boost in support from people interested in issues such as the state’s response to COVID, masks in schools and teaching on race in schools.

Robertson said he’ll be seeking support to qualify for public campaign financing.

Reporter Jesse Buchanan can be reached at


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