© 2024 WSHU
NPR News & Classical Music
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Will Haskell speaks about his new book on being the Connecticut's youngest state Senator

Simon and Schuster

They said it couldn’t be done. Connecticut Republicans held the state senate seat in District 26 for more than 40 years. No one thought a Democrat could win. And then Will Haskell did his research. He realized it was possible to flip the seat. And he did.

State Senator Will Haskell writes about his campaign and serving as the youngest state Senator in Connecticut in his new book:“100,000 First Bosses: My Unlikely Path As A 22-Year Old Lawmaker."

He spoke with WSHU’s Tom Kuser about his experience on The Full Story.

TOM KUSER: In 2018, Will Haskell of Westport, Connecticut, graduated from college. He quickly secured a job and in that job, he had to answer to not one boss or two but 100,000 bosses. Well, Haskell won the election for the district 26 state Senate seat. That includes the Fairfield County towns of Redding, Richfield, Wilton and parts of Bethel, Weston, Westport and New Canaan. He defeated Republican incumbent Toni Boucher, who had been in that seat for nine years. Haskell also became the first Democrat to represent that district since 1973.

Today at the age of 25, he is the youngest state Senator in the country. It's that youthful perspective that resonates in his new book. It's called 100,00 First Bosses: My Unlikely Path as a 22 Year-Old Lawmaker, and state Senator Will Haskell joins us now via Zoom. Senator, welcome back to The Full Story.

STATE SENATOR WILLIAM HASKELL: Thank you so much for having me. I'm thrilled to be with you today.

KUSER: The big question first, why write this book? What do you want people to know about your experience, deciding to run for the state Senate campaigning, and then serving?

HASKELL: Well, shortly after I was elected, Tom, I started to get calls from other young people across the country. They had their eye on a state Senate seat in Alabama, or a school board seat in Florida. And they wanted advice and they told me that they wanted to go into politics one day. I didn't have a whole lot of advice for them because, frankly, every candidate is different. Every campaign is different. There are 1938 state Senate seats in the entire country and I only know what it's like to represent one of them. But what I urged them to do was to bump up their timeline. My experience in this job has taught me that the problems that we're facing, whether it's gun violence, whether it's the rapidly increasing global temperatures, or whether it's the rapidly rising cost of college, they're far too urgent to warrant our attention one day. And, you know, I wrote this book to try to encourage other unlikely candidates, perhaps other young people, to take that leap of faith and get their name on the ballot.

KUSER: You write that the book was not meant to be an instruction manual on how to get elected. But it is to continue the conversations that you've had with many young people, as you just mentioned. Could you talk more about that? What kind of conversations need to be continued? And why is that important?

HASKELL: Sure, I don't think I'm qualified to write a how-to guide to run for office. And I also didn't want to write a long campaign manifesto, because I've read books by other politicians that amount to, you know, many chapters of a stump speech. And those aren't very fun to read. I can't imagine they're fun to write. So what this book is, is a behind the scenes look at the good and the bad and the ugly, and hopefully maybe the funny of what it's like to put your name out there and to run for office. Local and state politics is a fascinating world. And it's one that doesn't get a lot of attention, because we direct our ire and our activism towards Washington. So I talk about what it's like to hire my college roommate to be my campaign manager. What it's like to move into bunk beds in Fairfield County, because that was the only apartment we could afford. What it feels like to get picked apart by a focus group for everything from what I wear to what I say, to the size of my ear lobes. But I also talked about how we built a coalition of new voters and folks who weren't old enough to vote. And folks who had once voted for FDR. I talked about what it was like sitting in our office and getting a phone call that we were going to get endorsed by President Obama. And I want to give folks an insight into what it feels like to run for office so that hopefully they can realize, you know what, I could do this. Will is actually pretty ordinary. And we need ordinary people, a ton of them to solve the really extraordinary problems that our country in our community faces.

KUSER: I’d like to drill down a little bit into the early parts of your experience, basically getting politicized. You share some pretty adventurous accounts of how you were introduced to politics by your father, who was a devoted political follower, but not necessarily a politician himself. And you went to New Hampshire during primary season to meet candidates face to face. How did those excursions, those meetings, how do they impress you as a very young person?

HASKELL: My dad, he loves politics. And he imparted that love of politics on to me. He brought me every four years to the New Hampshire primary, as you mentioned. We had family who lived up there. And for those who haven't taken that drive and participated in that process, it's something that we should all witness because it's politics on the ground floor. You meet folks, you meet candidates who are shaking hands at the dump, who are walking around the diner, introducing themselves over coffee in living rooms with 5, 10, 15 voters telling their story and telling their platform. But rather than running for local commissioner or state Senator, they're running for President of the United States. And, you know, getting to shake hands with a young state Senator named Barack Obama — getting a peek into the optimism that drove his candidacy and eventually drove his presidency — it really sparked my interest in public service. And I remember only a few months later standing with my dad, once again, in a huge crowd at President Obama's inauguration and thinking, wow, this is a guy who just a few months ago was speaking to a, you know, sparsely attended gymnasium at Exeter High School that we happen to attend. And now he's the most powerful person in the world. And politics is a place where anything is possible. Underdog candidates can still win. And I think a part of that was what drove me ultimately to do something that was admittedly unusual. To jump into a race that everybody said we would lose. To run against an incumbent who had served at the Capitol for longer than I'd been alive, thinking that winning wasn't necessarily probable, but maybe it was possible.

KUSER: You mentioned or we talked about the importance of local elections getting involved locally, as you spoke with young people who were asking questions about that. You wrote,

“When Obama was in charge, I hadn't cared who was pulling the levers of local and state politics. Now that our federal government was moving in the wrong direction. I became curious about which direction Connecticut was headed in, who was deciding.”

What did you fear what happened locally under an administration that was now being led by Donald Trump?

HASKELL: Well, truth be told Tom, I like a lot of young people had grown up in the Obama era with a sort of progressive complacency. I figured that we were moving in the right direction. And yeah, we fought sometimes about the pace of that progress. But that forward momentum was was inevitable. And then President Trump's election was a punch in the gut that taught us all that very much wasn't the case. Now, we had a president who was explicitly promising to bring us backwards by saying that he was going to make America great again.

And the theme of this book is honesty. I confess in some of the very first pages that I didn't know who my state Senator was. I'm not sure I knew I had a state Senator. And for the first time in my life, I thought, OK, well, if President Trump's EPA is going to undo a whole bunch of really important environmental regulations, what's going to happen to clean air and clean water in Connecticut. If President Trump's Department of Education is going to undo protections on campus for students who are survivors of sexual assault and misconduct, well, then who's gonna step up for those students in Connecticut. And that prompted my journey in figuring out who represented me in the state Senate, learning that it was somebody I very strongly disagreed with and then the final lightbulb moment for me was realizing that nobody was running against her.

And this isn't all that uncommon in down-ballot races. Very often, incumbents go unchallenged. And whether, you know, you're a Republican or a Democrat, I think we can all probably agree that that's bad for democracy. It is a good and healthy thing when incumbents have to defend their voting record. I ran for reelection in 2020. It was a pain in the butt. But it was a really good thing for the political process that I had to go out and knock on doors and defend my voting record and meet new people and talk about the work that I was doing. And even if your listeners disagree with everything else I say today, I think that maybe we can all sort of rally around the idea that incumbents should be challenged and feet should be held to the fire.

KUSER: Running every two years, though, you have to make decisions that are going to potentially impact what voters think about you in the very near future. Is that a big problem? Is that a deterrent to maybe voting the way you really would like to vote or talking about what you really want to talk about, because that might be something that'll bring you down.

HASKELL: It can be. Connecticut is rather rare in the fact that state Senators, just like state Representatives, serve for only two-year terms, and then I need to seek re-election. I will say though, that on the list of structural reforms that I would like to see to the Connecticut Legislature, that isn't in my top three. What I would really like to see is a full time legislator. We ask lawmakers in Connecticut to tackle the same problems that other states address over the course of 12 months in four, five and six month sessions. It leads to jam-packed policy making sessions that sometimes go through the night. And in our rush to get it done, I'm not sure we always get it right.

The other reform that I would make is we don't pay lawmakers a living wage. Frankly, we're not the best in the country. And frankly, we're not the worst. A state Senator makes about $28,000 a year. We ranked 20th in the country. California pays their legislators about $90,000 a year. New Mexico pays them nothing. Here's why I'm an advocate for a tremendously unpopular idea, which is paying legislators just a little bit more. We are excluding a large percentage of the population from serving if we are making it impossible for them to be a legislator and also put food on the table, also pay their utility bills, also afford rent or a mortgage and put their kids through school. So my colleague, Norm Needleman, I think says it best. He says, “You get what you pay for.” And right now, the only folks who can afford to serve are those who have the financial leeway to be able to take a job that pays a little bit less. And of course, nobody should pursue public service to get rich. But it also shouldn't be a privilege reserved for only a small group of people. I think we would have a more representative democracy, more young people or women, more people of color in office, if we paid just a little bit more.

KUSER: I'd like to ask you something else you brought up in connection with the part-time Legislature. I believe you said there were days where you had to vote on many, many bills, dozens of bills, and it was virtually impossible to read every page of every bill. That seems like organized chaos.

HASKELL: That's a good word for it. I wished we talked before I wrote the book. Yeah, I hope that another takeaway from this book is that policymakers are fallible. We make mistakes sometimes. I hope that we get it right more often than we get it wrong. But people should come up to the state Capitol and see how laws are written. Because I had this impression from afar, that sophisticated Ph. D.s who know everything about everything, write the laws that govern our state. And that really isn't the case. It's folks who care tremendously about their community who try to do more listening than they do talking, and who are just trying to be a voice for their constituents. But you run for office and you talk about three, four or five issues that really motivate you and your constituents. And then when you arrive, you're asked to vote on 400, 500, 600 issues every single day, you're sitting in the transportation committee talking about infrastructure improvements, but in your headphones, you're listening to a meeting in the environment committee, were they’re talking about how to reduce carbon emissions and you're thinking, “Oh, my gosh, how do I tackle both of these issues at the same time?” All that to say, we need more people to run for office, we need more people to recognize that they don't need to be other worldly brilliant as Aaron Sorkin has sort of taught us to believe. Elected officials, they don't need to juggle multiple games of chess and deal with an international crisis like the fictional President Bartlet did. And also they're not Nancy Pelosi, as Fox News portrays her waking up every morning and eating children for breakfast. Elected officials are somewhere in between. They're just trying to do good and trying to juggle the many issues that we're asked to address every day.

KUSER: But you did run into quite a few people, as you pointed out. So when you floated the idea of running people would describe the ideal candidate to you and it wasn't you. People said you haven't even had a job yet. What makes you think you can be a state Senator? What was it that finally got the party to basically take a chance on you, especially in a district that had been a Republican stronghold for 50 years in District 26 for the state Senate seat and the sitting state Senator had been there nearly a decade?

HASKELL: Well, the very honest answer is that nobody else wanted to run. I was given the opportunity by a lot of party officials who thought, “fine, so long as he doesn't embarrass the party along the way, he certainly won't win.” But what proved to be a game changer, ultimately, in our campaign, was realizing that my youth was not a liability, but in fact, an asset and I tell this to other young candidates who call me all the time. I was 22 years old knocking on doors. I looked about 12. And everybody wanted to talk about my age. And I would always try to change the topic. I would say, “Yeah, I'm 22. But let me tell you about my plan to address our pension issues. Let me tell you about my plan to speed up the trains.” And voters still couldn't wrap their idea around voting for somebody who was younger than their kids or sometimes even their grandkids.

And instead, I started to realize that I couldn't ignore my age. So I might as well talk about it. I might as well talk about the fact that every day policymakers, whether they're in town hall or in state capitals, or in the U.S. Congress, make decisions about what the next 10 and 20, 50 and 100 years of American life will look like. And they're usually doing so without any input from the stakeholders in that future. The promise of representative democracy is that every perspective and every generation has a seat at the table where decisions are made. But Gen Z is basically absent from those rooms and I felt that that was a problem. So I was very candid with voters about the fact that, yeah, I didn't have all the answers. I don't know what it's like to start a small business in Connecticut. I don't know what it's like to take out a mortgage. But I do know how hard it is to afford rent. I do know how hard it is to afford a degree in the 21st century. I do know what consent looks like on a college campus on a Friday night and tragically what it doesn't sometimes, and I do know what it feels like to participate in one of those school shooter drills and wonder if the next Sandy Hook or the next Parkland was going to arrive in your high school. Those are experiences that are unique to my generation. They're perspectives that usually don't have a voice at the state Capitol, and that was what I was trying to change.

KUSER: Senator, in your book, you describe how you noticed something about the 26th district that the more seasoned political minds did not see. You noticed it was flippable. All the people in the local Democratic Party that you spoke with, were convinced it was a Republican seat. And that was just not going to change.

HASKELL: You know, a lot of people I think get used to this idea that the person who sits in the seat is going to sit there forever. And that doesn't have to be the case. Looking at how well Hillary Clinton had done in that district in 2016, was one of those things that made me think, we could do this.

KUSER: You do point out in the book. And in fact, you do it constantly that you were not alone in this campaign to secure this seat. That you had a lot of help from sometimes unlikely participants, from friends, from family. Talk about how much help you brought into your circle in order to make this happen. You were a college student when this campaign got underway. Yet you did loads and loads of research into getting your campaign up and running.

HASKELL: Well, campaigns are all about teamwork. And one thing that was so exciting to me when we hit the ground running was the excitement that other young people had about our campaign. In fact, I first noticed that when we had a dormroom fundraiser, our very first fundraiser, we thought we might raise like $300 from a bunch of broke college students….

KUSER: Dormroom fundraiser, explain what that is.

HASKELL: Well, I was living in a dorm at the time. I was in my final semester of college. My roommate was my campaign manager. And we were about 300 miles away from Connecticut. But we wanted to start raising money. And I remember we drew a big thermometer on the board and invited a bunch of friends over and we said let's top it off at $300. And we'll see if by the end of tonight, we can raise 300 bucks. And that happened like in the first 20 minutes. And by the end of the night we had raised about $8,000. And it was a lightbulb moment for me. And I realized, oh my gosh, a bunch of people who don't care at all about what's happening in Connecticut's 26th district are excited about this campaign, not necessarily because of me or any one political position that I had, but because they've never been able to recognize themselves or their priorities in somebody on the ballot. This is a problem that impacts Democrats and Republicans, right. Both parties are led by septuagenarians and their more senior colleagues.

So the idea that somebody who they related to would have a chance to serve it excited a lot of young people and that excitement continued when we bought when we got back to Connecticut. Our campaign office every day was filled with 15-, 16- and 17-year-olds. Folks who weren't yet old enough to vote, but they brought in bean bag chairs, they sat in those beanbag chairs and they made politics their extracurricular activity. They licked envelopes and knocked doors. And they did really substantive work, too. They came up with a lot of our campaign platform on our website. They helped me with debate prep, they did opposition research. So young people were very much involved in this campaign and we wouldn't have won without that.

KUSER: I'm talking with a Connecticut state Senator Will Haskell about his new book and his experience in the state senate. The book is called 100,00 First Bosses: My Unlikely Path  as a 22 Year-Old Lawmaker. What about older people? You couldn't win just with Gen Z votes. You needed support from others. How did the generational window, why did that open for you?

HASKELL: My favorite moment from the campaign, the most magical night we had, was just a rainy telephone Tuesday. That's what we called our weekly phone bank in our office. We would get a bunch of pizza and invite volunteers over. And there was a 14- or 15-year-old intern from Westport, stamping envelopes next to an older volunteer who had once voted for FDR. And I couldn't help but ask... they were becoming fast friends, and I couldn't help but ask our older volunteer, what excited her about the campaign? What drew her to volunteer that night. And it was something that excites a lot of folks in my grandparents' generation, which is President Kennedy's long-overdue promise about passing the torch to the next generation. That promise really hasn't been fulfilled. But more and more across the country, whether it's Emma Gonzalez or Greta Thunberg across the world, Gen Z is stepping off of the sidelines, stepping into the voting booths and sometimes getting their names on the ballot, and it wouldn't be possible without the support of folks who are a little bit older but believe wholeheartedly that our generation has something of value to add.

And, by the way, that continued when I got to Hartford. Some of my greatest friends and mentors are folks who had been there for a long time. Folks who were much, much older than I was. I realized I had a lot to learn from them. And they were kind enough to realize that I brought something new to the table, and maybe we could learn from each other. I think of people like Senator Marty Looney, Senator Bob Duff, folks who really know and could teach me how a bill becomes a law, how to sit down and write legislation. This was brand new to me. This was my first job out of college. But it was thanks to their friendship, and maybe these were unlikely friendships because I had run to shake things up, that we were able to listen and learn and do some really cool things over the course of our time in Hartford together.

KUSER: So Election Day came. The campaigning had ended, the focus groups and the debates and all of the stress that came along with that. I think you mentioned that on the morning of Election Day, you were in the top bunk so you banged your head on the ceiling as you woke up realizing it's Election Day. And then as the numbers came in you realized that eventually you had won. You also realized you had thought so much about running that you hadn't put a lot of deep thought into serving, what do I do now?

HASKELL: It was a very steep learning curve. You are more diplomatic than I am in the book, but it was a wake up call. I ran, like I said, because I thought winning was possible. I never thought it was probable. And nobody was more surprised than I was on election night. And frankly, I panicked the next morning. I thought, “How am I going to answer to these 100,000 people?” Yeah the majority of the folks who showed up had voted for me but only barely, right? There were still tens of thousands of people who harbored deep skepticism about whether or not I was up to this job. And the skepticism that they felt, honestly, it paled in comparison to the skepticism that I had in myself.

When I got to Hartford, in the second third of this book is all about learning the ropes at the state Capitol. And I was lucky that a whole bunch of other new state Senators were about six or seven other new state Senators were elected that same year. And it was the weirdest onboarding process of all time. In a sense, it reminded me of college, right? You go and you learn, you get your ID and you learn where you sit, and you learn where the bathrooms are, and you get your schedule. But also, we were all just desperately trying to live up to the promises and the expectations from the campaign trail. Trying to learn the weird jargon of how to speak on the Senate floor. What does it mean to rise for a point of personal privilege? Which committee chairs have the power to kill your bill or to move your bill forward? I tried to be very transparent in this book, about the legislative successes, and frankly, the failures.

There are so many issues that we failed to get across the finish line. I came into the Legislature promising my constituents that I would fight for a 21st century tolling system that asked out-of-state residents and trucking companies to contribute to the upkeep of our infrastructure. I wasn't able to get that across the finish line. But I'm enormously proud that I was able to work with my colleagues and pass the free community college program in Connecticut, another one of my campaign promises and something that's already helped thousands of students to afford a degree. So it was a learning curve. And I certainly didn't get it right every day. But like I said, when you're in office, you just try to get it right a little bit more often than you get it wrong.

KUSER: Something else you say in the book that made it easier if that's what I can use to commit to serving. You said you knew this was not something you wanted to do forever. You didn't want to be for a lifetime in the state Senate or in the state Legislature. How did that change the way you thought about doing your work at the state Capitol as a state Senator?

HASKELL: That's a great question. And it goes to something you asked earlier about thinking about your next re-election. I was really focused on getting things done, on working across the aisle wherever necessary. I wasn't so concerned about the long-term political consequences of my career in Connecticut, because, frankly, I knew that this was pretty unusual that I had a chance to serve and it certainly wouldn't last forever. And I had plans outside of politics. Before I decided to run for office, I wanted to go to law school. I wanted to live a little bit closer to my girlfriend and now fiance. I knew that I was so privileged to have this opportunity to serve but I went in knowing that it wasn't going to last forever. So I'm going to try to make the most of every day and make my decisions based on what I think is right for the people that I represent, and not necessarily trying to focus on my own re-election campaign.

KUSER: Another potentially big question: what did you learn that you didn't expect to learn running for office and then serving as a state Senator? Were there big “aha” moments, big sort of surprises that you just didn't expect would be coming your way?

HASKELL: Absolutely. And I'm so glad you asked. Here's the biggest one. And I don't say this with any judgment, because like I said, I grew up not knowing who my state Senator was. But there are really interesting and important things happening on the state level. If you care about the quality of the public schools that your kids go to, if you care about the quality of the roads that you drive on, if you care about the cleanliness of the air that you breathe, and the water that you drink, well, then all of those decisions are actually made at the state Capitol. And, by and large, people don't pay attention to state politics. They live busy lives, if they have time to tune into politics at all, they're going to watch the White House press conference and not what's happening in Hartford.

That being said, if what I learned from my experience up there is that if we direct even a small portion of the advocacy that we send towards Washington, D.C., well, then we could implement some transformative changes for our state and our communities. Take a look at President Biden's Build Back Better agenda. Democrats are distraught that Senators (Joe) Manchin and (Krysten) Sinema have stripped out things like free college and paid family leave. Well, here in Connecticut, both of those policies are the law of the land, our paid family and medical leave program came online this month. And it's the most generous and inclusive in the country, making sure that parents of newborns and those who are recovering from an illness have 12 weeks of paid leave, and they don't have to worry about paying their bills or putting food on the table.

So, you know, just a handful of phone calls can make a huge difference in getting bills like that across the finish line. And honestly, I want to pull my hair out sometimes when my Democratic friends on Twitter tell me to pick up the phone and call Joe Manchin or call Joe Biden, or call Chuck Schumer, because I promise you, I'm not going to reach them, right? Like, I'm going to get a very friendly intern in their office who's going to listen to me for a polite five minutes and then hang up the phone and go about their day. You're not going to change the course of what happens in the Senate by picking up the phone. I wish that weren't the case, but it is. If you pick up the phone and call your state Senator, you're gonna get me on my cell phone. And if 10 people call me and ask me to focus on a bill or an issue, well, then oh my god, all of a sudden, my day is going to change and my priorities are going to change. And it's going to be a top focus of mine. So just a little bit of the engagement that we send towards D.C. if we could redirect it towards the state level, we'll start to see a ton of progress. And in this book, I detail how I've seen firsthand just a handful of phone calls, get a bill from absolute obscurity, through committee through the Senate through the House of Representatives onto the governor's desk and signed into law. Because a handful of people decided to pick up the phone and call their state representative.

KUSER: There's a political divide clearly in this country, the likes of which we haven't seen for a long time. Did you experience that kind of, I guess, animosity in Hartford while you've been a state Senator. And from your perspective as, again, one of the youngest or the youngest state Senator in the country, is there a different perspective on this? Is there a different outlook, perhaps more hope, when it comes to closing this divide?

HASKELL: Well, I think that there are reasons for optimism and pessimism and true to the theme of the book, let me start with optimism. Eighty percent of the bills that we passed in the state Legislature are bipartisan. And that doesn't make the headlines because it's not sexy or interesting, but it should give us all a little bit of hope. And for all the rancor that we see on cable news there's great work being done by Democrats and Republicans who band together. And I talk about some of those friendships that I've built up at the state Capitol across the aisle. Here's something that I didn't expect about state office. The negative feedback sometimes can wear on you. And I don't just mean on social media, right? You try not to read the Twitter mentions or the Facebook comments. But I remember when we voted on vaccine requirements so that public school children would be safe and healthy, and immunized against measles and mumps and rubella. There was a band playing outside the Capitol with, you know, huge speakers so that we could actually hear them. It was distracting in the Senate chamber, singing and shouting obscenities about me. And that's something that you don't easily shake and something that I personally when I ran for office didn't anticipate. Because I thought well, you know, it's state office. It probably doesn't get all that nasty. It doesn't get all that ugly. And in fact, it really does sometimes. It can get quite personal and that's something I try to be transparent about in the book. Because I've heard a lot of other elected officials say, “Yeah, I pay no attention to the criticism.” And maybe that's true for them. But it's not true for me. And it's not true for a lot of the people that I work with. It does have wear and tear on our morale.

And finally, let me just answer your question about Gen Z. I think that a lot of pundits get it wrong when they talk about young voters, they group millennials and Gen Z together, and these are very different voters and very different generations. Nineteen percent of millennials agree with the statement that generally speaking people can be trusted. Let me say that again. Because that's unbelievable. Less than one in five Millennials thinks that generally speaking, people can be trusted. This is a very cynical generation. Their younger siblings say the Gen Z coalition is actually much more optimistic. They vote at a much higher rate. I don't know how it is that a generation that grew up during the forever wars of the Bush era, that participated in those school shooter drills, that watched a reality TV star rise to the Oval Office, that spent their formative years indoors because a virus caused the worst recession since the Great Depression, I don't know how we're walking away optimistic. But the consistent polling among Gen Z voters and non-voters alike, is that while the rest of the country is throwing up their hands, when they look at politics, the youngest voters are rolling up their sleeves and figuring out how they can get involved. A growing percentage every year answers the question, “Do you think that young people, do you think that you have the opportunity to impact change,” the number of folks who answer yes, in Gen Z is skyrocketing. And that's something that makes me really excited about the next chapter of American politics.

KUSER: Why are you leaving the state Senate now you're not running again, for re-election this year 2022. You're going to law school, sort of a delayed goal that you had. Why leave now?

HASKELL: I struggled with the decision, to be very honest with you. But like I said, I ran knowing that I probably wasn't going to stay in the state Senate forever. And I ran because I thought that it was time for a change, back in 2018. I thought that a better public policy is written when new voices and different perspectives get to enter the caucus room, get to enter the committee here and get to walk on to the Senate floor and take a seat. And I think it's time for a change. Once again, whoever comes after me to represent the 26th district, they're sure to bring new ideas. And probably, frankly, they're going to have a lot of better ideas. And that's going to be a great thing for the 100,000 people who live in this district and for the more than three-and-a-half million people who live in this state.

So I'm sad to be stepping back because I love the work that I'm doing. But I also think that change is healthy and good in representative government. And I'm excited about the next chapter. Both personally, I'm excited to live a little bit closer to my fiance to finally go to law school and to get that degree. But I'm also really excited for Connecticut's future about the new voice that's going to come. And by the way, for what it's worth, I hope I can find my way back into politics, eventually. I found what I love doing. And you know, law school will be a bit of an intermission. But in the future I could find my way back into this public service that I love.

KUSER: Well, you answered my last question already. You will run for office again, someday?

HASKELL: Who knows what's in the cards? I can't give a definitive yes or no. But I would love that. I've loved every minute of this journey. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to serve and my hope, obviously, I think I would love to get back into politics eventually. But really my hope in writing this book is that somebody out there just picks it up and reads our story about our tiny corner of our tiny state and says, “Hey, I could do that. I want to run for office. I'm going to take a leap of faith.” Or maybe somebody else picks it up and says I don't have the ability to run for office right now in my life, but I know somebody who's very active on Instagram, very active in their community, hosts school walkouts, I think that they should run for office. And maybe they'll give this book to somebody who they believe could be a great legislator. That's why I wrote it to encourage other people to do more and do better on their own journey towards their own public service career.

KUSER: Senator, thanks so much for your time today. We appreciate it.

HASKELL: Thank you for having me.

KUSER: We’ve been talking with state Senator Will Haskell of the 26th state Senate seat in Connecticut. And we were talking about his career and about his new book. It's called, 100,00 First Bosses: My Unlikely Path as a 22 Year-Old Lawmaker.

Tom has been with WSHU since 1987, after spending 15 years at college and commercial radio and television stations. He became Program Director in 1999, and has been local host of NPR’s Morning Edition since 2000.
Ann is an editor and senior content producer with WSHU, including the founding producer of the weekly talk show, The Full Story.
Fatou Sangare is a former associate producer at WSHU.