- Will Haskell for CT/Facebook
- Democrat Will Haskell, 22, won a Connecticut state Senate seat held by Republicans since 1973.
- He was a Business Insider intern before that.
- Haskell believes states can be a bulwark against the Trump presidency, and that’s what his voters want.
- He says the press plays an important role in informing the electorate.
On November 2, 22-year-old Will Haskell flipped one of the most entrenched seats in the Connecticut state Senate from red to blue.
Connecticut’s 26th Senate district has been held by Republicans since Richard Nixon was president. And its incumbent, Toni Boucher, had worked in the legislature since before Haskell was born. But with a nimble digital strategy, a campaign that involved a lot of door-knocking, and a pair of endorsements from former President Barack Obama and Sen. Chris Murphy, Haskell ousted Boucher and helped Democrats tie the state’s Senate.
Before all that, Haskell worked at Business Insider. He was an intern the summer after his freshman year at Georgetown University (he graduated this past spring), writing about digital culture for Tech Insider. Some of his best-remembered articles include covering both shark-wrestling Instagram celebrities and a convention for cat lovers, as well as the occasional piece of political coverage.
Haskell realized he wasn’t into journalism and planned to go to law school. He had subsequent internships working for Murphy and the Democratic National Committee. But after Donald Trump became president, he took Obama’s farewell speech to heart: “If you’re disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clipboard, get some signatures, and run for office yourself.”
Haskell took him up on it.
“I was never planning on running for office,” he told Business Insider. “But this is a unique time in history that requires us to put ourselves outside of our comfort zone.”
Haskell sees his own election, in part, as a repudiation of Trump. States can be the bulwark against Republican policies, he said.
“Reproductive health freedom, LGBTQ issues, environmental regulations, voting rights – and more fundamentally, human decency and compassion. Those were all on the ballot,” he said. “And my community decided to show up and vote.”
He pointed to the Connecticut Senate’s failure to pass a bill protecting net neutrality, as well as the legislative body’s failure to pass a “Time’s Up” bill to protect victims of sexual harassment.
“There are so many areas where legislatures now have to be that first line of defense,” he said. “We can’t count on Congress. We can’t count on the Supreme Court to protect our most fundamental values. The job now falls to our state capitols. I view that as part of my role.”
Haskell also credits his victory to enormous turnout. The district he’ll be representing had only 10% fewer voters show up between the 2016 presidential election and the 2018 midterms, a smaller decline than usual. He says it’s because he prioritized knocking on doors and reaching voters on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Haskell says he wants to meet voters where they already are, whether on the street or on their phones.
“I gave voters a look into my daily life on my instagram stories,” he said. “That’s something I want to continue to do as a state senator. I want people to know what it’s like to be a state senator.”
Haskell also pledges to work with the media to create an informed democracy.
“Too often, politicians and journalists see their jobs in opposition of one another, when in fact we so desperately rely on journalists to accurately report information to get facts,” he said. “Elections are about choices, and voters can’t possibly make up their minds without all the information that they need.”