Tag Archives: Will Haskell

Westport Votes Blue; 2 Democrats Win

Westport backed all 4 Democratic candidates in yesterday’s state Senate and House races. That helped deliver 2 of those districts to the Democratic Party.

Will Haskell

In a race that drew statewide — even national — attention, 22-year-old Staples High School graduate Will Haskell thrashed longtime incumbent Toni Boucher, for the State Senate 26th district seat.

Haskell’s 64-36% winning margin — against a politician who was in office as long as he’d been alive — was helped by a strong base of active volunteers. The recent Georgetown University graduate galvanized many young voters, and women.

Staples grad Jonathan Steinberg returns to Hartford, representing House district 136. He beat back a challenge from Republican Greg Kraut, a newcomer to politics and a 2-year Westporter. The unofficial margin was 61-39%.

In races that involved small portions of Westport, Republican incumbents Tony Hwang (State Senate district 28) and Gail Lavielle (State House district 143) retained their seats. However, both lost Westport to their Democratic challengers, Michelle Lapine McCabe and Stephanie Thomas, respectively.

 

Chris Murphy Comes To Westport

It’s still July — but the November election is just 99 days away.

Senator Chris Murphy came to Westport Democratic Party headquarters today, to inspire volunteers for down-ballot races.

Will Haskell — a recent college graduate, running against Toni Boucher for State Senate in the 26th district — introduced the senator, noting that he’d knocked on doors during Murphy’s first US Senate run.

Murphy is only 44 years old. But that’s twice as old as Haskell. Acknowledging the introduction — and his own early days in politics — Murphy said: “I was Will Haskell!”

US Senator Chris Murphy, earlier today at Westport Democratic Party headquarters.

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.”

 

A Sobering Story

With the holiday season near — hark! the herald angels are singing already! — it is time to turn our attention to mistletoe. Menorahs. And men and women who drive drunk.

A recent story in Inklings — the Staples High School newspaper — is worth noting.

The paper often covers important topics, like teen drinking. But — as editor-in-chief Katie Cion points out — nearly every Staples student today knows the perils of drinking and driving. Years of health education — and work by organizations like Safe Rides and the Teen Awareness Group — have hammered home the dangers of combining the two.

Adults — well, not so much.

“Personally, I have never stopped a teenage drunk driver,” a Westport police officer told Cion. “It is much more common for the operator to be an adult.”

drunk driving

Cion’s story opens with a student describing a trip home from a family wedding.

Her father had had too much to drink. Her mother offered to drive, after “only” a couple of glasses of Champagne.

“The car was swerving, and we were going way too fast,” the student recalls. “She was straddling the line in the middle of two lanes. It really freaked me out because I didn’t know what to say because she’s my mom, but I was terrified the entire time.”

Both Safe Rides member Will Haskell — a Staples senior — and adult director Julie Mombello say that students can be smarter, and less embarrassed, than their parents about admitting they are too drunk to drive.

So, as we get set for a few weeks of spirited joy and parties and peace-wishing, let’s give each other, and all Westporters — especially our impressionable kids — one special gift.

The gift of not killing each other on the road.