The "Oprah" of politicians: Seeking re-election, 103rd District State Rep. Liz Linehan follows through on promises, gives back to community
CHESHIRE--Communication is one of the many qualities of politician Liz Linehan, whether it was as a former two-term District 3 Town Councilor in Cheshire or as a current Democrat State Representative serving the 103rd District in Southington, Wallingford and Cheshire and seeking re-election.
Another important quality on the other end of the spectrum for Linehan is knowing the importance of listening to people -- all constituents no matter who you are or what your party affiliation might be -- and listening to both sides of an issue when considering legislation.
The combination of the two skills has allowed her to be a successful, consistent advocate for her constituents as a hands-on politician who gets things done. When she makes a campaign promise, she delivers on that promise, always giving back to the community.
Linehan’s ability to get things done and give back to the community has prompted some constituents to call her the “Oprah” of politicians. The belief is that Linehan constantly gives back to her district the way that Oprah Winfrey constantly gives back to the community (charitable community programs, philanthropy, etc.).
The first time I heard Linehan referred to as the “Oprah” of politics was during a conversation with a gentleman and his wife near the Cheshire Democratic Town Committee booth at the Cheshire Chamber of Commerce-sponsored Fall Festival.
“Liz, that Liz is something,” said James T., who didn’t want his last name revealed. “She’s done a lot of things for a lot of people. I heard this somewhere, but she really is the Oprah of politics, kind of like the way Oprah Winfrey gives back to people.”
When Linehan first ran for Cheshire Town Council in 2013, she promised to improve public safety, restore bulky waste and limit tax hikes. She was able to accomplish each of those promises in the first four months of her first term on the Cheshire Town Council in 2014.
During her second term as Town Councilor, in 2016 Linehan was elected as the State Representative for the 103rd District. In the 2017 legislative session, Liz introduced four bills that she successfully championed through House passage and three were signed into law by Gov. Dannel Malloy. The bills included a law to prevent discrimination against pregnant women in the workplace. There was also anti-human trafficking legislation that creates a new crime known as “commercial sex abuse of a minor.” Another successful piece of legislation is a law to train police officers in communicating with and understanding autistic children, specifically those with a tendency to wander from their homes.
“The only way I know how to best represent my constituents is to talk to them face to face,” Linehan said. “During the campaign I knock on thousands of doors and go to as many public events as possible to connect with constituents. I don’t talk. They talk, I listen.
“When I’m not campaigning, my door, my office is always open to everyone in my district. When people do reach out to me, they are always so happy that I am so accessible. I want to help them with any problem whether they believe it is big or small. I did that as a Town Councilor, I’m doing that as State Representative and I’ll always do that for my constituents.”
Linehan has shown the same hands-on, active role as a State Representative as she did as a Cheshire Town Councilor.
Linehan supported the education-to-career pipeline by creating the first ever Student Manufacturer Connection Fair, pairing high school students with high tech manufacturers to inspire the innovators of tomorrow. Linehan said the initiative was the result of a meeting with an aerospace manufacturer in her district.
She listened to the issues facing the manufacturing supply chain and did not hesitate to help out. The Student Manufacturer Connection Fair is now an annual event with typically several hundred in attendance.
After a Southington bus driver was arrested for molesting a child, Linehan authored a bill that would protect children from predators by making sure parents and schools were always notified of such an arrest. However, the State Senate session ended before the bill could get to that legislative body.
Understanding the need to combat the opioid crisis, Linehan partnered with the Regional Action Councils to provide proactive training to teachers, coaches, and administrators in Cheshire and Wallingford initially and eventually Southington. The staff learned how to recognize signs of drug abuse in teenagers and how to appropriately intervene and refer a student to treatment.
Known as the A-SBIRT certificate program, this training was provided at very little cost to the district at only $5 per participant.
When Malloy first proposed a state budget, Cheshire would have lost about $10 million in state revenue from the cuts he proposed. Linehan fought to get that $10 million back for Cheshire. She also fought to get a $500,000 grant for Cheshire for school safety.
Healthcare is another issue for Linehan who co-authored and passed legislation to make sure people get coverage for prescription medications, hospital visits, drug rehab and mental healthcare.
Malloy’s budget also would have eliminated $58 million that Southington was due for reimbursement of combined sewer projects. Like Cheshire and other towns, Southington was slated to lose $5.1 million due to cuts in the budget. Linehan fought back and the measure to eliminate the $58 reimbursement was defeated and Southington got its $5.1 million returned as well, saving taxpayers thousands of dollars.
As Election Day on Nov. 6 approaches, the “Oprah” of politicians will continue to knock on doors every day. Among the concerns of people she has talked to are the state budget, taxes and jobs.
“We need to work to balance the budget, and all our state programs are being audited to find ways to cut and reduce spending,” Linehan said. “I agree we need to reduce spending, but legislators shouldn’t do it if the cuts do more harm than good.
“I listen to the concerns of everyone I talk to in Cheshire, Southington and Wallingford. I want to help people any way I can, in my district and throughout Connecticut as well. Just the other day a young woman called me to help her homeless mother in Southington. I made sure we found her a homeless shelter. That is what this job is all about, what it means to me. It’s about helping people and making their lives better.”
Dan Nowak is chairman of the Cheshire Democratic Town Committee's Communication Relations/IT Committee, a volunteer position. He is a Cheshire Parks and Recreation Commissioner and has been a sportswriter at the New Haven Register for 36 years.