Column: Mark Sargent and the hubris of the young politician

Mansfield Town Council member Mark Sargent announced that he will be seeking a seat in the State Senate. State rep. Jesse MacLachlan, R-Westbrook (L) and state Sen. Art Linares, R-Westbrook (R) stood in support of Sargent. (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

Earlier this month, Mansfield Town Council member and UConn alumnus, Mark Sargent announced his candidacy for Connecticut State Senate in the 29th district. Three months into his tenure as a town council member, Sargent is already attempting a rapid political ascension, while dismissing the significance of experience needed to rise to such a level.

But Sargent's decision defies more than just rites of passage within today's political system. The sudden leap violates the trust of voters who undoubtedly cast votes for Sargent with faith that he would dedicate himself to his current post long enough to fulfill his promises to the Mansfield community.

Coverage from the Daily Campus confirms that senior members of the state Republican establishment have recognized the futility in his pursuit of such a lofty office. In announcing his candidacy for state senator, Sargent has reneged on his commitment to his constituents in Mansfield while undermining his own political viability.

In an uncontested election this past November, Sargent secured a seat on the Mansfield Town Council, finishing ninth out of nine candidates for the council's nine available seats. After serving as a council member for three months, Sargent’s practical experience is limited. For perspective, consider that Sargent's image did not appear on the “Elected Officials” page of the Mansfield Republican Town Committee website as of Feb. 22.

Although Sargent expressed his excitement in looking “forward to serving the Town of Mansfield,in a Nov. 2 Facebook post just days before being elected, he has revealed himself to be a prodigious heir to the political tradition of false promises and star-filled eyes.

Three months removed from the loss of his political virginity, he has sullied his promise to Mansfield voters as well as his reputation amongst the state GOP. Sargent follows a disconcerting trend in which aspiring politicians trivialize experience in order to legitimize their premature attempts to climb the political ladder.

Sargent unearthed a passion for local politics after first believing he would “go straight to D.C.” after college, a point he emphasized on a day of canvassing covered in an October story by The Daily Campus. While a focus on local issues warrants praise, using a municipal position as a springboard for increased clout brings this passion for local issues into question, as well as the sincerity of future promises.

 During his Feb. 13 campaign announcement, Sargent announced his intention to canvass “from now until November.” Devoting a significant portion of his time to campaigning, without having finished out a single term as a council member, undermines his commitment to Mansfield.

During his announcement, Sargent said, “We need a bold leader who will fight every day for the taxpayers of the 29th District, one who is ready to take on the challenges of the 21st century and bring on innovative ideas to preserve our tax base.”

Though Sargent did serve as the President of the UConn Undergraduate Student Government, the leadership required for that position pales in comparison to that of a state senator. Barely separated from the collegiate umbilical cord, he is inextricably bound to an intoxicating mix of impatience, ambition and egotism. No amount of contrived maturity or study of politics can compensate for his inexperience.  

Sargent spoke of stagnancy in the Connecticut GOP during his campaign announcement, hoping to bring “fresh ideas” to the party and state. It is hard to believe that Sargent, already caught in the pipedream of a youthful ascension to the political zenith, will inspire innovation. Speaking to Kyle Constable of The Daily Campus, Sargent, despite GOP scrutiny, insisted that his run was “something I’ve thought about for quite some time and I’ve discussed with several other people.”

Given his short tenure as a council member, Sargent ostensibly planned this move before being elected. If his notion of innovation is offering empty commitment to Mansfield constituents in order to gain a modicum of political viability, then Sargent’s ideas are far from fresh. 

On Feb. 10, Mark Sargent tweeted a Milton Berle quote: “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” Sargent built said door in the form of an uncontested run for town council, which has given him the necessary exposure to launch his run for State Senate.

In his official Facebook biography, Sargent cites Dale Carnegie’s 1938 "How to Win Friends and Influence People" as one of his favorite books, a work which includes a chapter instructing readers to “Increase your influence, your prestige, your ability to get things done.” In this section, Carnegie quotes former British Prime Minister, Lloyd George, who argued “that it was necessary to bait the hook to suit the fish.”

Sargent has prematurely cast his line in hopes of securing higher office, failing to see the futility in his hackneyed politicking. Unless Sargent enters a Faustian deal in the coming months, his campaign is bound to collapse under the weight of inexperience and hubris.


Christopher Sacco is opinion editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at christopher.sacco@uconn.edu.