Race for the 26th State Senate: Will Haskell
Twenty-two-year-old Democrat and New Canaan resident Will Haskell said he decided to run against Republican incumbent Toni Boucher for Connecticut’s 26th Senate District seat because he believes “Connecticut can do better.”
“Connecticut’s in a tough spot, and we have been for a while. We’ve suffered under a Democratic and Republican leadership, frankly, but I’m actually optimistic about Connecticut’s future,” said the Westport native.
Haskell said he became interested in politics around the age of 11.
“My dad and I started going to the New Hampshire primaries every four years, so we got to see democracy up close,” said Haskell.
“It’s such a cool thing. If you’ve never been to New Hampshire in primary season, [there are] presidential candidates shaking hands in diners, meeting voters in their living rooms, and going to high school gymnasiums.”
Haskell said seeing “the impact just a handful of voters can have on the political process” was “really inspiring to see as a kid,” and it led him to become “really passionate about politics.”
Haskell said he turned his attention to state government after the presidential election of Donald Trump.
“I felt like I had to play some role in the fight against his agenda,” he said.
“I think that the fight against Trump really does start at the state and local level, so I decided to come home and start knocking on doors.”
“I’ve spoken to commuters whose trip to Manhattan has gotten slower since 1950 because we haven’t invested in transportation. I’ve talked to parents who’ve had to choose between advancing in their careers and starting a family because we still don’t have paid family leave. I’ve met so many young people who can’t focus in the classroom because we haven’t enacted common sense gun reforms to prevent the next school shooting.”
Despite all of this, he said, “Connecticut has a lot of assets, [such as] wonderful schools, beautiful natural resources, and an educated workforce.”
Haskell said he wants to strengthen and improve these assets, as well as others, to make Connecticut the best it can be. For example, he said, “we need to do a better job of strengthening the power of that workforce to stay in Connecticut — to build their futures here, to start their small businesses, families, and their corporate careers here.”
If elected, Haskell said his top three priorities as state senator would be gun violence, paid family leave, and transportation funding.
Haskell said “common sense gun regulations” would be his No.1 priority, and it’s the most common response he gets when he asks 26th Senate District constituents what the most important issue is for them.
“I think it’s insane that in this state, you can order a gun [online] and have it arrive in the mail in parts with no serial number or registration. It makes it hard for law enforcement to do their job, and it makes us all less safe — whether in movie theaters, schools, or any public place or gathering,” he said.
“I’m running against somebody who said we went ‘too far’ in regulating guns after Sandy Hook. I think we haven’t gone far enough — and a lot of the voters I’ve spoken to over the last six months agree with me.”
Having been raised by a single working mother who had to go back to work just two weeks after he was born, Haskell said, “passing paid family leave, financed by employees, is a real priority” of his.
“We need paid family leave because 40% of the workers of my generation say that they would leave the country for a better work-life balance. If we passed paid family leave in this state and say, ‘Look, you don’t have to make that kind of a choice between career and family,’ we could draw workers across state lines.”
When it comes to transportation and infrastructure, Haskell believes he can bring the change taxpayers have been waiting for.
“We have 302 structurally deficient bridges in this state, we have trains that have gotten slower over the last few decades — and there’s still no wifi on Metro-North for that matter, which is insane,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what your political ideology is if the train is delayed yet again, or getting home takes such a long time that you miss dinner with your family,” he said.
“That frustrates a lot of commuters, and they’re ready to vote for somebody new — not somebody who’s had 22 years to fix it and hasn’t gotten the job done.”
In Connecticut, Haskell said, “a lot of people are complacent … because they see Jim Himes, Chris Murphy, and Sen. [Richard] Blumenthal … and think, ‘OK, Connecticut’s a blue state,’” but “don’t realize that the Connecticut state Senate is tied — 18 Democrats and 18 Republicans.
That, Haskell said, is “scary for a number of reasons — the first and foremost of which is that the state legislature is the first line of defense against the Trump administration.”
“I think that this district deserves somebody who’s level-headed and will always listen to the constituents, and that’s exactly what I’ve been doing — that’s been the goal and mission of my campaign,” he said.
As “a young person going into politics,” Haskell said, his mission is to “encourage more people of [his] generation to step off the sidelines” and get involved in the political process. “I think it’s insane that three out of four millennials tend to sit the midterms out and not vote,” he said.
“That’s crazy, frankly, because we have the most at stake this election — and yet we’re choosing not to play a part in shaping our future. We, more than anyone else, need to have a seat at the table as those decisions are made.”
Haskell said regardless of who they vote for, he just hopes people show up to vote in November.
“We’re never going to change this state unless all of us play an active role in turning the page and starting the next chapter,” he said. “It’s time for all voters to realize that so much is at stake in Connecticut.”
When it comes down to voting for him or his opponent, Haskell said, it’s pretty simple.
“If you think Connecticut is on the right track and doing fine, then I’m not your guy,” he said, “but if you think that we’re at a crossroads … and that the No. 1 job of who we send to Hartford is to stand up to Donald Trump’s agenda and fight for a Connecticut that we can be proud of — a state where reproductive freedom and health is not up for debate; a state with a free and open Internet; a state that’s going to pass strong sexual harassment and assault laws in the face of Donald Trump’s disrespect of women — then I hope that I’ll earn your vote.”