KILLINGWORTH – Ever since John Samperi split from the Republican Town Committee to form his own Killingworth Conservative Party, Samperi, a candidate for First Selectman, has considered himself the “true Republican” choice in town.
The RTC, of course, disagrees. And they are very clear that, while Samperi is a registered Republican, he is not in any way affiliated with their committee. So Samperi keeps running, and puts candidates on the ballot each election so the Killingworth Conservatives can keep their party status.
Samperi, who runs a heating and air conditioning company and moved to Killingworth from West Haven 16 years ago, said he would run Killingworth like a business if elected. He promises to lower the mill rate, work closely with public works and be hands-on with infrastructure projects, and set up a police commission to evaluate the best ways to get overnight law enforcement in the resident trooper town.
Samperi said he worked to lower the mill rate as a fire district commissioner in West Haven. The district maintained its response times and didn’t have any injuries, he said. It was hard, consistent work to trim the budget while making sure the necessary expenses – paying firefighters and buying new equipment – were taken care of, he said.
“Not one paperclip will be bought, no check goes out of [town hall] unless I see the check first,” Samperi. “That’s the way I run my business, the way I run my house, the way I run my farm. There’s no extra expenditures.”
Samperi said he’s concerned about the law enforcement coverage Killingworth gets overnight. A resident state trooper is on duty during the day, and the State Police barracks cover the town at night. He said there are minor robberies in town that aren’t reported as much as larger incidents in other towns, and he says his top priority would be making sure people feel safe in town.
He said he would set up a police commission made up of former law enforcement and other Killingworth residents to evaluate the issue. Samperi said he’s not necessarily in favor of Killingworth having its own police department, but if it turned out to be cost effective to have two officers instead of one resident trooper, he would consider that.
“I’m open to whatever the recommendations of the commission are,” he said.
The RTC has called into question Samperi’s ability to lead the town, given past allegations that he made racist remarks as a fire commissioner in West Haven in 2001 [reportedly saying “there goes the neighborhood” during a commission meeting], and sexist remarks to the Killingworth tax collector in 2009.
Samperi denied those claims to CT Examiner, and said he doesn’t have any bias towards anyone because of their race or gender.
“I tell people up here, you didn’t live it, you didn’t see what happened in West Haven,” Samperi said. “You think you know because you read something in the paper. I don’t care about color.”
Nancy Gorski, the Republican candidate for first selectman, is confident that she will win against Samperi. His party has garnered votes in the past, but not nearly enough to win a seat. The Killingworth Conservative Party’s candidate for First Selectman in 2019, Robert Sassi, earned 2.5 percent of the vote – and Samperi earned 4.1 percent of the vote as a candidate for selectman that year.
The Conservative Party had more success in 2017, when Samperi earned 188 votes [8.43 percent] for first selectman – in an election where First Selectwoman Cathy Iino won re-election by 171 votes over Republican challenger Fred Dudek. Also running on the Conservative Party ticket for selectman, George Hedrick earned 359 votes, or 12.37 percent of the votes in that race.
Samperi said the several hundred votes Hedrick earned are evidence that there is support for his party in Killingworth. With the Killingworth Democrats not running a candidate for first selectman, Samperi said he sees this as his best chance to win an election.
“When Democrats get in the booth and see that there’s nobody on their line, who are they gonna pick? The Republican, or that jackass down below – that’s what I’ve been called a lot,” he said. “I ask some of them and they say, ‘well, we hate you, but I guess we’ve got to vote for you.’”