Get to know...Will Haskell, 21-year-old running for state senate
NEW CANAAN — A 21-year-old wants to oust Sen. Toni Boucher from her state senate seat in the 26th District.
Will Haskell, a government major and French minor at Georgetown University, announced his intention to run for state senator last week. Though he recognizes that he’s been alive for nearly the same amount of time that Boucher has been involved in state politics, he believes that no experience is better than “bad experience.”
Haskell, a Westport native, has worked in previous campaigns with Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Hillary Clinton. With his May graduation coming up, Haskell is devoting his time between Washington, D.C., and Connecticut and will become a full-time candidate once he has obtained his degree.
Q: What led to your interest in running?
A: After attending Staples High School, I went to Georgetown University and I started getting really interested in Washington and politics. I spent a summer in Washington working for the Democratic National Committee, where my job was to look at legislation where they’re trying to make it harder to vote. My job was to investigate the legislation and one day on a lunch break I wanted to see if there was any voter suppression going on in Connecticut, so I took a quick look and I was embarrassed to find out that not only was voter suppression taking place in Connecticut, but it was actually my state senator (Sen. Toni Boucher) who was proposing it.
Sen. Toni Boucher’s response to Haskell’s announcement
“It’s always a good thing to have young people involved in our political process. Diverse voices keep our democracy healthy.”
Sen. Boucher was elected to the 26th Senatorial District in 2008 and is currently serving her fifth term. She served as State Representative from the 143rd Assembly District for 12 years prior to that.
I didn’t realize that a supposedly moderate state senator was doing everything she could to make it harder to vote. She tried to impose stricter voter identification requirements and reduce the number of voting hours. She has successfully tried blocked early voting in Connecticut — we’re one of the few states where you can only vote on a Tuesday, it’s a system that prevents old people, young people and minorities from getting to the polls. I’m shocked this was the case.
She has opposed equal pay for equal work, she opposed paid family leave — people still have to choose between advancing their careers or starting a family — I was just stunned. I knew this was a moderate, level-headed district that in the year of Donald Trump voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton and our values are not being represented in Hartford. I decided to move back to Connecticut right after college and get involved and run against her and challenge her to defend her voting record.
Q: Why did you decide to move to New Canaan?
A: I wanted to move back to the district and my friends were surprised because nobody does that and that’s a huge problem for our state and that’s why our economic recovery is lagging. Young people want to go to Boston or New York City, they don’t see a future for themselves in Connecticut and there are all sort of reasons for that. It makes Connecticut not very appealing for millennials.
I chose New Canaan and I found a place I could afford in town and I’m one of the 6.3 percent of millennials in town. I’m new to town, I’m excited and I want a start a path for young people to come here. It’s not just young people, I’ve spent time talking to parents and grandparents and they want their kids to come back to Connecticut. People don’t realize that affordable housing is what allows young people to start businesses or careers and that’s the key to economic recovery.
Q: You’re running against someone who has been in politics for nearly as long as you’ve been alive.
A: I’m not going to contest that she has a lot of experience. I think years of bad experience is worse than no experience. I’m not going to hide the fact that I’m new to politics — I think it’s actually a benefit. The knowledge and experience that I bring as a young person moving back to Connecticut I know what young people look for.
If you look at the state senate, the average age of state senators is too old and my generation needs a voice in Hartford to start advocating for an economy of the future and a more forward thinking fiscal situation. Legislators are also voting on bills that are going to affect generations to come and they need more stakeholders in that future. I also believe that we need to elect more young people. I don’t have a lot of political experience and I’m proud of that, I’m excited that I’m new to politics and young.
Q: How are you dividing your time between school and campaigning?
A: I’m graduating in May and I’m coming back and forth to the district until then. It’s going to take a full-time candidate to beat Boucher and every experience I’ve had on campaigns with Congressman Himes and Sen. Murphy is that there is nothing more important than being at someone’s door. No mail, no tweet you can send that’s more important than shaking their hands and telling them what you believe. Every single day, I’m going to be knocking on doors after graduation. I’m not going to skip a single day and I think that’s what it’s going to take. I’ll be a full-time candidate.
Q: Why the state Senate as opposed to another office?
A: I look at my representation at the Representative Town Meeting in Westport and I liked who represented me. It was the same for the Board of Education, Finance and Selectmen and our state representative Jonathan Steinberg. The next level up was Toni Boucher who I intensely disagree with and I think she has to be challenged on her record. I did work from the bottom up and decided to run against Boucher and that opened up all these other towns where I could live in and New Canaan was where I decided to go.
Q: What would you say are your top three priorities?
A: Transportation - we have more than 350 bridges that are structurally deficient and so many of them are in the 26th District. It’s dangerous and irresponsible to neglect them. We can oppose reckless, off-peak rail cuts to New Canaan, it’s a failure on the Department of Transportation. We can do that by establishing a lockbox to keep the money for transportation for that purpose only. My opponent says she’s for a transportation lockbox but we could have had it by now but when Democrats proposed it she voted against it because I imagine she didn’t want them to get the political credit. Part of my promise, running as a moderate, I’m happy to work with both parties anyone who wants to move Connecticut forward. I will never play partisan politics with transportation.
Gun control - just last week Staples High School had a near tragedy if it weren’t for the incredible efforts of law enforcement. It’s scared the hell out of me. What happened in Parkland and Newtown — it deeply affected the community. The state did pass a great gun law after Sandy Hooks but it’s not enough. My opponent recently said that Connecticut went too far in regulating guns after Sandy Hook and I believe we haven’t gone far enough. I think we need to ban bump stocks. I think we need to seriously regulate ghost guns. I really believe we need to crack down on conceal-carry. Connecticut has some of the most outdated conceal-carry laws in the country and we need to fix that.
Also, the economy. I want to build one where people like myself want to live and work. It means passing paid family leave, investing in small businesses, it means spending the money to make trains run faster. I think my third issue is trying to make a path for other people to follow to come back to Connecticut with me to start a future.