With only two months left in his undergraduate career, Will Haskell (COL ’18) has set his sights on an ambitious new job: Connecticut state senator.
Haskell declared his intent to run as a Democrat for the state Senate seat March 1. A member of the Georgetown Chimes a capella group and the director of personnel at Hoya Snaxa, the Students of Georgetown, Inc. convenience store, Haskell intends to defer his plans to attend law school at the Georgetown University Law Center to campaign before the election Nov. 6.
Haskell said he was galvanized to run for office by the election of President Donald Trump in 2016.
“This is a moment when our fundamental values — equality, justice, respect — they seemed suddenly, for the first time in my life, up for debate,” Haskell said.
Haskell and his campaign manager, Jack Lynch (COL’ 18), spent spring break campaigning in Connecticut. They plan to visit Connecticut multiple times this spring and intend to canvas the district this summer. (Lynch was formerly a member of The Hoya’s editorial board and a staff writer for The Hoya.)
“I have the time this summer to be a full-time candidate. I’ll be knocking at doors every single day. And I think that really poses an opportunity to make a difference,” Haskell said.
Lynch said his team has prepared a robust strategy for the work they will do while still students.
“In the meantime, we have plenty of work to do from here at Georgetown, including fine-tuning our budget, building our social media platforms, and all sorts of long-term strategy and planning,” Lynch wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Haskell is competing for a seat held by Republican State Senator Toni Boucher since 2008. In the 2016 election, Boucher defeated her Democratic challenger by 20 percentage points, according to Ballotpedia. However, Republicans do not dominate the state government; Connecticut is one of eight states where Democrats control both the legislature and the governorship.
Haskell’s previous political experience includes interning for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, interning in the Capitol Hill offices of Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) and Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and researching voter protection laws for the Democratic National Committee.
Haskell acknowledged his age could be perceived as a weakness, especially when contrasted with Boucher’s experience, but said his youth can bring a new perspective.
“Representative democracy ought to be representative, and my generation doesn’t have a voice in the Connecticut State Senate,” Haskell said. “Look, we need new voices. There’s no minimum age for doing the right thing. There’s no minimum age for standing up to President Trump and his agenda. There’s no minimum age for trying to make your community a better place.”
Haskell is not the only young Hoya running in this year’s midterm elections. A recent Georgetown alumna, 26-year-old Democrat Shavonnia Corbin-Johnson (SFS ’14) is running for U.S. Congress in Pennsylvania, and recent graduate Kyle Rinaudo (SFS ’17) is running as a Democrat for the Georgia state House of Representatives.
Boucher announced an exploratory bid for governor in September, according to the Hartford Courant. She participated in a bipartisan gubernatorial debate March 11, but could not debate at the Republican gubernatorial debate Feb. 21 because she had not officially declared her candidacy.
However, Haskell said he expects to run against Boucher in the state Senate race.
“My opponent’s sort of perennially running for governor. She does this every four years. And I think based on previous experiences, she’ll spend some time criss-crossing the state, and then she’ll come back to our district eventually when that doesn’t work out,” Haskell said.
Boucher did not respond to requests for comments as of press time.
Haskell’s policy platform addresses three main areas: strengthening gun control regulations, improving infrastructure and building a more robust economy.
Haskell expressed support for banning bump stocks, cracking down on unregulated gun sales, investing in transportation initiatives like faster trains with Wi-Fi and diversifying Connecticut’s workforce by attracting college graduates with tax credits.
Haskell contrasted his platform with Boucher’s, which he characterized as increasingly right-wing.
“Everyone wants to fight against Donald Trump, right. I do too. He takes up so much political air, so much political space. But the fight against Trump starts at the state and local level,” Haskell said. “Senator Boucher is not in the Oval Office, but she is working to implement his agenda in Connecticut every single day.”
Lynch, who has been roommates with Haskell since freshman year, said he has full confidence in his candidate’s political motives and platform.
“I always knew he had the political talent to succeed in the race, and more importantly, I knew that he had the values that would make me proud to work with him,” Lynch wrote. “It would be easy for a lot of candidates to bow to political pressure, but Will is espousing the same views on the campaign trail that he did years before he was a state senate candidate.”
Initially concerned with raising enough funds for his campaign on time, Haskell said his campaign raised $15,000 three days after announcing his bid March 1.
As of March 13, Haskell’s campaign had raised about $25,000. More than 100 students have donated to his campaign, “which means a lot, because you know and I know students don’t have much money to spare,” Haskell said.
Although he is unsure of his long-term plans apart from eventually attending law school, Haskell confirmed his commitment to his home state.
“I never expected to be running for office right out of school,” Haskell said. “I can tell you this, though: I’m committed to Connecticut in the long term. I think that too many people in Hartford leave. We have too many people in Hartford who are making decisions that will affect Connecticut for decades to come but then won’t be around for that future. I’m a stakeholder in Connecticut’s future. I’ll be there for the good, the bad and the ugly.”