22-Year-Old Democrat Unseats Long-Standing Senator in 26th District

There was a political upset in the 26th Senate District after 22-year-old Democrat Will Haskell unseated Republican Toni Boucher, who was first elected in 2008.

Boucher held other offices prior to her election to the 26th Senate District and has essentially served the state legislature for as long as Haskell’s been alive. But the senator-elect said someone needed to challenge the sitting incumbent, especially in a district where Hillary Clinton won by more than 20 percentage points.

“I decided this is a moment in my life but also in the nation’s history to do something that’s difficult, perhaps a little unusual, because that’s what this moment requires,” Haskell said.

More needs to be done in Connecticut about gun violence and getting young people to stay in the state, according to the senator elect, who’s concerned the financial condition of Connecticut is forcing too many young people to move away.

“I’m going to be a forward-thinking legislator. Somebody who’s willing to work across the aisle to invest in transportation because people my age, they don’t want to take a car to work, they want to take mass transit, if possible. I want to revitalize our cities,” Haskell said.

The 22-year-old received the endorsement of former President Barack Obama, and interned with Hillary Clinton for America and the Capitol Hill offices of Congressman Jim Himes and Senator Chris Murphy, who was with him Wednesday in Bethel thanking supporters and volunteers.

“I want Connecticut to be a state where lots of 22-year-olds want to start a career. I don’t want it to be unusual that I decided to move back home.” Haskell said.

Haskell grew up in Westport where he attended Staples High School and just graduated magna cum laude from Georgetown University. He put plans for law school aside to take on his newest roll.

“There’s a lot of proud teachers here to see one of our students take such civic pride and at such a young age, be able to make a difference,” said James D’Amico, principal of Staples High School.

D’Amico was the chair of the social studies department when Haskell was in school and said he knew one day Haskell would take on a roll where he could try to make a difference.

Many young people helped get him elected. Haskell’s campaign manager is his college roommate from Georgetown.

He also made sure to meet the people voting for him.

“I knocked over 4,000 doors. Our team knocked far more. I had 142 meet and greets,” Haskell said, who knocked on George Pagano’s door.

“I think someone who is young and willing to try new things and kind of having a different view,” said 27-year-old Pagano, who voted absentee in Connecticut.

He just took a job in Boston and said he voted for the Democratic ticket.

Many voters who spoke with NBC Connecticut said they did the same, citing a want to change the political climate.

“It’s so needed to have the youth and millennials speaking up and really taking charge,” said a Wesport resident.

NBC Connecticut reached out to Toni Boucher, who said in an email her district had the greatest number of new Democratic voters in the state.

She released a statement: “I would like to congratulate Will Haskell for running a strong campaign and wish him much success in his new role as State senator for the 26th district. It is a big responsibility and I am sure he will devote his energies to serving the people well. I am deeply thankful to the voters for having given me the rare and extraordinary honor of serving them here at home, on local boards and in the legislature in Hartford. I have always put every ounce of passion, commitment and energy into these roles with the ultimate objective of serving my constituents well. Coming here as an immigrant with no money, education and not speaking a word of English at the age of 5, CT has had an incredible positive impact on my life and I am forever grateful. Thank you also to my family, wonderful husband and the many volunteers who stuck with me through this tough campaign season and over the years. I could not do this without you. You have my eternal gratitude. Thank you.”

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