Local leaders Haskell prepares for Hartford
WESTPORT — Democratic state Sen.-elect Will Haskell is working hard to prepare for office a month after defeating Republican incumbent Toni Boucher in a surprise upset for the 26th Senate District.
“I’m busier now than I was during the campaign,” Haskell said. In anticipation of the opening of the legislative session on Jan. 9, Haskell has spent the past month meeting with constituent interest groups, fellow state senators and elected officials in Bethel, New Canaan, Redding, Ridgefield, Weston, Westport, and Wilton, all the towns included in the 26th district, at least in part.
“I was exceptionally honored to receive 53 percent of the vote and I want to represent the people who voted for me, but I also want to be a strong voice for people who didn’t vote for me and prove I can be a legislator who listens,” Haskell said, noting he’s met with Democrats and Republicans.
“I appreciate very much that Senator Haskell reached out to me and wanted to meet so quickly after the election,” Westport Republican First Selectman Jim Marpe said. “From a municipal operational standpoint, I think it’s very important that he focus on transportation, on appropriations and funding and making sure Westport receives the appropriate share of state funding for education and whatever projects might come in the future.”
Securing funding to address Coleytown Middle School, which is closed due to issues with mold, will be one of Haskell’s goals in the legislature, he said.
New Canaan’s Republican First Selectman Kevin Moynihan also reported having a pleasant lunch with Haskell, and Haskell said he will work to get a covering for New Canaan’s Metro-North train station.
Haskell’s top legislative priorities, however, will be the same as those he outlined in his campaign, he said.
“I want to make it easier to vote and harder to get a gun and I want student loan forgiveness,” Haskell said.
What Haskell ends up focusing on in Hartford will depend on his committee assignments, which have not yet been announced by the Senate leadership, but Haskell said he’s writing legislation for a student loan forgiveness program and plans to co-sponsor legislation to ban so-called “ghost guns” and mandate safe gun storage.
Haskell also has ambitious ideas for expanding voting access and said he wants to spearhead a constitutional amendment to allow for early voting in Connecticut, which is one of only 12 states without any form of early voting.
Haskell’s also been in talks with Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill about proposing legislation to create a website where people can go to digitally request an absentee ballot, to replace the current system in which people who want a paper absentee ballot must first fill out a paper form and send it to their town clerk, which Haskell said is not a common sense process.
“The legislative session is not very long and I feel like I need to hit the ground running on January 9th,” Haskell said. This year, the legislative session adjourns June 5 and state senators are paid $28,000, so Haskell said he’s looking for a flexible part-time job, but hasn’t found anything yet, and whatever position he accepts will be second to his responsibilities as a legislator.
“I found what I love to do and that’s connecting with people and helping them receive the quality of service to which I believe they’re entitled. I really enjoy organizing, being out in the community, talking to family, friends, and neighbors, and helping to rally a community behind particular causes,” Haskell said.
As a politician, Haskell vows to remain as accessible to his constituents as he was during the campaign, and to share the details of his life as a state senator through his Instagram account, which he hopes will be an avenue for young people to learn about the day to day life of a legislator. “Lots of scarfing Chipotle dinner in between meetings,” Haskell said.
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