BREAKING NEWS: Jan. 3, 2022, 10:00 a.m. — State Sen. Will Haskell has confirmed first to GOOD Morning Wilton that he will not seek re-election next November. Haskell has decided to attend law school, which he says will require his full-time attention.
“I’m really sad about it, but it feels like the right thing to do in my life at this moment, even though it’s incredibly hard to leave,” Haskell said, adding that he will still be working for constituents through the end of his term.
“I’m obviously going to continue serving the rest of this term. I’m really looking forward to a robust and busy upcoming session. Obviously with the pandemic, there are so many problems I feel still need to be worked on. So I’m not going anywhere just yet,” he said.
Haskell is making the announcement now “…to give voters and candidates plenty of time to get to know each other ahead of the November elections.”
Haskell was first elected in 2018 to represent the 26th District, which includes Wilton, Redding, and Ridgefield, and parts of Westport, New Canaan, Bethel, and Weston. At age 25, he’s currently the youngest member of the CT General Assembly (CGA).
The Westport native launched his campaign in March 2018 (at age 21), two months shy of his graduation from Georgetown University. He challenged Toni Boucher, the longtime incumbent (and Wilton resident), earning the endorsement of then-President Barack Obama, and was the first Democrat to win the seat since 1973.
Haskell won re-election to a second term in 2020, defeating Wilton resident (and current selectwoman) Kim Healy.
Named Senate Deputy President Pro Tempore, Haskell currently chairs the CGA’s Transportation Committee and serves as the vice chair of the Government Administration and Elections Committee. He also serves on the Energy and Technology, Environment, Judiciary, Public Health, and Higher Education and Employment Advancement committees.
During his time in the Senate, Haskell has been front and center on several issues that have been gotten a lot of public attention. He championed the unsuccessful effort to bring highway tolls to Connecticut and was instrumental in getting legislation passed that created free community college in the state. He has also been vocal on banning ghost guns, transportation issues, paid family and medical leave, raising the minimum wage, among others.
GMW got the chance to interview Haskell Monday morning, Jan. 3 before he announced the news himself on his social media platforms.
GMW: First of all, congratulations on getting into law school. Where are you going?
Will Haskell: Somewhere in New York city, I was accepted into NYU and Fordham, and I’m waiting to hear from some others and better understand the tuition situation. So all I can say for certain is it’s going to be in New York.
GMW: And after law school, is there a chance you might come back to Connecticut politics, or higher office? Is politics still going to be in your future?
Haskell: Well, I have discovered over the last few years that I love politics and this unlikely opportunity to be a lawmaker at the age of 22, it taught me a whole bunch of things about myself and about democracy and about Connecticut. One of the things that taught me is that politicians still very much have to answer to the people. I think that lost in the craziness of cable news and the pessimism that people feel about politics is the fact that underdog candidates can actually still pull off a win. And when they do, they have an opportunity to even slightly and sometimes in a big way impact public policy.
So, yeah, I’m stepping away from politics for the moment. But I can’t imagine leaving this — profession is the wrong word, but calling is too high — this pursuit for good. I do hope to come back to it at some point in one form or another.
GMW: Talking about impact, looking back to date on your almost two terms, where have you made your biggest impact?
Haskell: I was really proud to bring a different perspective to the caucus room. I really do genuinely believe that government works best when new voices and different perspectives get to enter the fold. People who were involved in my 2018 campaign will remember, I didn’t run for office because I thought that I was the only, or the best person to represent this community. I ran because I thought it was time for a change.
Having served now in this Senate Democratic Caucus and having served in the State Senate, I feel as though our generation, the Gen-Z voters continue to be overlooked by policymakers. So I was really proud to be that voice in the state capital.
We made it possible for students to graduate from community college with no debt. Then we made it possible for them to find a good-paying job here in Connecticut. As importantly, because we know that the next generation of voters cares tremendously about issues like paid family medical leave, we made it possible for parents from all families to spend time with their newborns, with their loved ones who are sick, without sacrificing their paycheck.
I’m really proud of the gun laws that we enacted, some of the strongest gun laws in the country. I’m really proud that we raised the minimum wage, which helped over 300,000 families afford to put food on the table. And one thing that never really makes a ton of headlines, and probably no one will look back on, but something that I’m really proud of having voted for is helping to pay down our pension obligations. Because so often Connecticut’s ambitions have been hamstrung by the fact that we have this debt hanging over our head. And by paying down that pension debt, we’re making it just a little bit easier for the next generation to pursue the things that interest them, the things that they care about.
And I think that decades from now the future taxpayers of Connecticut will be really grateful that the state government actually, finally was proactive in paying down that pension debt.
I’m really so grateful to the voters of my district for having given me this chance and also for the colleagues and the constituents who I’ve learned from. I think if there was a mistake I made — of course, there were many mistakes I made, I wrote a whole book about the mistakes I made — but if there was one overarching mistake I made, it was that early in my campaign, I spent more time talking than listening, and I’ve really tried to change that over the last three years. And in the course of listening at town hall meetings, and as I went door to door, I have learned a ton from this community. And even though I’m stepping away, it’s not because I don’t love this job. I do love it. And I’m so grateful for the chance that that my constituents have given me.
GMW: Any particular message to Wilton constituents?
Haskell: This isn’t specific to Wilton, but in a way it is. Connecticut’s future is really bright right now, which is why it’s hard to leave in the midst of all that progress. I feel as though this pandemic — obviously not withstanding, that is a huge issue we’re facing — there’s some really exciting things happening in our state. If there’s one thing I’m walking away feeling from my time in the State Senate, it’s that Connecticut’s a really great place to live. And we sometimes forget that. We fall into this habit of complaining about the state that we all call home and overlooking all the reasons that we’ve decided to build our lives here.
I can’t wait to come back to Connecticut. I think Connecticut is the greatest place in the world to grow up. It’s the greatest place to go to school. And I feel so lucky to have been from this state, to have had a chance to serve this state. And I think we all should remember how many awesome things are happening right here in Connecticut every day.