Next Generation Steps Up: Will Haskell Throws Hat In State Senate Ring

In the summer of 2016, Will Haskell worked for the Democratic National Committee. Assigned to the “voter protection team,” he researched states that were making it harder for certain citizens — like young people and minorities — to vote.

The 2014 Staples High School graduate wondered what was happening in his home state. To his surprise, he says, he discovered that his own state senator — Toni Boucher — spent “2 decades making it harder to vote.” For example, he says, she opposed early voting, and tried to block online registration.

Then he dug deeper. He saw she’d opposed paid family leave bills, equal pay for equal work, and said that certain gun restrictions put in place after Sandy Hook went too far. She has previously received an A- rating from the National Rifle Association.

“Actually, I think we haven’t gone far enough on gun regulations,” he says. “Our tough gun laws made Connecticut one of the safest states in the country. But there is so much more we can do, from regulating conceal-carry to cracking down on bad-apple gun suppliers.”

Will Haskell and Darcy Hicks (center), at a Westport rally last year supporting gun legislation.

Haskell wondered who had run against her. He found out she’s had minimal opposition for years.

Which is why today, Will Haskell announces his candidacy for state senate from the 26th District.

He’s only 21. He still has a couple of months before he graduates from Georgetown University. He’s deferred enrollment in law school to run.

But he’s in it to win it.

Will Haskell

Haskell spent last summer working in the state’s public defender office, learning about the criminal justice system and the cost of mass incarceration. At night he traveled throughout the 7-town district, listening and learning about the people and issues.

One of the most important is transportation. Trains run slower today than they did in the 1950s, Haskell says — yet the transportation fund is regularly dipped into, for other uses. He supports a transportation “lockbox,” which he says Boucher opposes.

Another key issue is the number of young people leaving Connecticut. He looks at the current legislature, and sees virtually no one of his generation. He believes their voices must be heard.

“Toni Boucher says GE and Aetna left the state because of high taxes,” Haskell says. “But they’re moving to places with high taxes. There’s something more going on.

“We need to look at tax credits, to keep students from Connecticut’s great schools here after they graduate. We need paid family leave policies too.”

Haskell says the 26th district is “moderate.” Hillary Clinton won it by 23 points. He looks forward to working with anyone, of any party, to achieve his goals.

Fortunately, he says, running for office in Connecticut is not expensive. If he raises qualifying funds, he’ll have the same amount of money as his opponent. He’s already organized a series of fundraisers.

Haskell is not a political neophyte. In past years he’s worked on the successful campaigns of Senator Chris Murphy and Congressman Jim Himes, as well as with Hillary for America.

Will Haskell with Hillary Clinton.

Reaction to his candidacy has been positive, Haskell says. “I know I look more like 12 than 21. Most state senators don’t look like me. But that’s why I’m running. I, and people like me, have a stake in our future.”

He’s not apologizing for his age. Far from it.

One of his inspirations came from Barack Obama. In his farewell speech, the outgoing president urged anyone dissatisfied with the current political climate to “grab a clipboard, get some signatures and run for office yourself.” Haskell calls himself “a stakeholder in the future.”

Besides his age, Haskell faces the challenge of running against a well-known and respected incumbent. “I have to make sure people know her voting record,” Haskell says. “She’s opposed to voter accessibility, and criminal justice reform.”

As he travels through the district he hopes to represent — all of Westport, Wilton, Ridgefield and Redding, and parts of Weston, Bethel and New Canaan — Haskell will make his case.

“My platform emphasizes long-term investments in infrastructure, reliable funding for our schools, more robust cooperation between our towns and cities, addressing widespread opioid addiction as the public health crisis it is, and policies that will draw other young people to live and work in Connecticut.”

He’ll be helped by his years at Staples, where he talked about politics with social studies, English, even chemistry teachers. He was aided too by his years in the Players drama troupe. As a senior, he was elected Players president.  Being on stage, he says, “gave me the confidence to stand up and talk in front of others.” (He also became a noted voice speaking against cyber-bullying.)

Staples Players president Will Haskell, in “Avenue Q.” (Photo/Kerry Long)

Harking back to his summer with the DNC voter protection team, Haskell says, “Republicans don’t want my generation near the ballot.” This fall, he promises, “my generation will be on the ballot.”


29 responses to “Next Generation Steps Up: Will Haskell Throws Hat In State Senate Ring

  1. Adam Vengrow

    Little advice to Will, dont latch on to the left too hard, there are a bunch fiscally conservative yet socially liberal people in the area! The whole dem vs repub thing needs to go away! Westport is full of fans who like both the New England Patriots and the Yankees! Good luck, and the only way the 1950s train we have in 2018 is going to get better is if we privatize it. The government is inept at running anything around infrastructure in this state. Best of luck to you Will, and i write this from the usual 75 minute train commute to go 40 miles to NYC!

    • Rozanne Gates

      Dear Adam, you obviously have never been to The Netherlands where the trains move with total efficiency. Not only did I live in that remarkable country for 6 years, I was recently there on a return visit. From the airport outside Amsterdam, I took the train (located inside the airport) to Amsterdam’s Central Station. Privatizing the train system is the worst possible response to our situation. What we need is the same level of commitment to excellence in transportation as the Dutch have. It is our problem and a problem that reflects on our inability to achieve greatness as the Dutch have done. Here is a video that shows the ride on the train from the airport to the center of Amsterdam
      And Will Haskell has the level of commitment the State of Connecticut so desperately needs.

  2. Janette Kinnally

    Wishing you the best of luck Will. It will be tough to beat her, but I do hope your voice is heard and positive change is made in this state. Having grown up here, there are many wonderful qualities and reasons to live here, but there need to be improvements in many areas or people will continue to love out of state. Think outside the box and never let the money start to influence you. Stay true to your values on what is most important for this state.

  3. Roberta Tager


    Sent from my iPhone Bobbi


  4. Susan Iseman

    Refreshing to say the least.

  5. Nicole Klein

    GO WILL GO!!!!! So proud to know you! Congratulations on your announcement!

  6. Carl Jansen

    Toni Boucher callously turned her back on her own constituents, including children, who begged her to support the medical marijuana program. Toni Boucher demands millions of dollars for trains but supports no revenue options for infrastructure. She opposed a bus project that has been wildly successful. She has denied constituents equal access to their original birth certificates and has been constantly running for higher office. Nice lady but time to go.

  7. Sal Liccione

    Hey will you no buddy I am proud off you we will help all the way

  8. Mark Yurkiw

    You are correct on all counts, especially that a millennial voice is absolutely needed. Ct has neglected its cities which is what keeps things growing. Read the September issue of Governing Magazine “How Did America’s Richest State Become such a fiscal Mess” by Alan Greenblatt. Taxes are not the problem, I moved here from Westchester when I realized what we get for our taxes here.
    Then find what the CEO of Philips said last month in an article why he was moving his company to Boston from Ct. He NEEDS to be where the Millenials are to power his company into the future. Thank you for staying and fighting for what this state needs to do to bring this incredible state “Back to the Future”.

  9. Mark Yurkiw

    Here’s the article from Governing Mag.
    Let me know what I can do to help.

  10. Will, this made my morning! I hope more people from your generation will run for local government too. Thank you so much for investing your time in our future.

  11. Ilene Mirkine

    I was thrilled to hear this – Will is just the guy to get things done! We need younger representation, from folks with a stake in the future of our towns, states and country. How can i donate to Will’s campaign? And i encourage others to do so as well AND spread the word. Grassroots beginnings!
    (And as always, thank you Dan, for posting this).

  12. When our children act like leaders, and our leaders act like children…
    So proud of this generation!

  13. Mark Yurkiw

    Here’s why Philips Corp is moving out of a “sleepy little town in Ct.”

  14. Mark Yurkiw

    Keep me posted, I want to help.

  15. Greg Jacobs

    Will is one of the smartest and most perceptive people I know at the young age of 21. Out with the old, in with the new.

  16. Rozanne Gates

    See Will, we told you that people would get behind you. I like the sound of State Senator Will Haskell. Everybody, meet your new State Senator! And thanks for letting everyone know, Dan.

  17. Arline Gertzoff

    It maybe an impossible dream but Will is serious and nobody deserves it more.I have worked with Will and cannot praise him enough.A great future awaits Go Will

  18. Tyler Smith

    Wishing the best of luck Will! Also getting rid of our incredibly inept Governor should help too.

  19. What a breathe of fresh air! Maybe there is hope for Ct. after all! It will take a lot of work to right all that is wrong. I wish you so much luck! It is more than time for changes to be made and the future lies with the youth of the country!

  20. Peggy O'Halloran

    Wonderful! I look forward to your refreshing candidacy!!

  21. Elizabeth Thibault

    Regardless of one’s affiliation, it’s refreshing and exciting to see the next generation of leadership spring to life. It’s true, if you look at who is in the halls of state leadership and national leadership, it’s older people who have the time to dedicate to these endeavors. (My FIL has held a VT State House seat for 6 years, after his retirement from IBM, and he’s about average age for his colleagues there.) I wish Will good luck in his efforts and look forward to hearing about the issues and where each candidate stands.

  22. Kareen Kanaga

    This is a young man wise beyond his years. It is time for the youth to take over as what we have is not working.

  23. Senator Toni Boucher has been re-elected five times by the seven towns of the 26th Senatorial District for good reason. She is highly responsive to her constituents, is a tireless advocate for the Towns she represents, and is known for her integrity. She is a leader in the Legislature, who is both well respected and listened to when she speaks.

    As a result of Senator Boucher‘s service as a leader on the Education Committee and Co-Chair of “School Security” on CT’s landmark gun bill, she was given an “F” rating by the NRA. She has received an “F” rating every year since 2013 and has never accepted any campaign contributions from the NRA.

    Senator Boucher is also a leader on the Transportation Committee where she had proposed and passed several special Transportation Fund “lockbox” bills. Senator Boucher is a highly recognized and respected advocate for mass transit and our rail lines having saved the Danbury/Norwalk branch line from permanent closure. She also led the initiative to add new rail cars, parking spaces and computerized signalization as well as replacement of the President of Metro North when their leadership failed commuters. In addition, she helped craft a “Passenger Bill of Rights”.

    We are fortunate to have such a strong, experienced and dedicated advocate for our district. It is no wonder in the last three elections that Toni Boucher has received the most votes of any Senatorial candidate in the State who has had an opponent! This is a testament to her high quality leadership that has been recognized and endorsed by a wide cross section of Democrat, Republican and Independent/Non-Affiliated voters

    Dewey Loselle

  24. Bart Shuldman

    Good luck. :):)

  25. Valerie Ratner

    Yes, yes, yes and yes!

  26. So proud of you kid! GFS Rocks!

  27. Bravo! This young generation gives me hope.
    Where can I send a donation?