JT Lewis was 12 years old when he learned his 6-year-old brother, Jesse, had been shot in the head at Sandy Hook Elementary School after helping some of his classmates escape alive. The horrific event transformed Lewis into an advocate in his teenage years—he received an award for courage at the 2016 MTV Music Awards, per WTNH. Now it's fueling the University of Connecticut student's attempt to win a state Senate seat. The 19-year-old could become one of the youngest people elected to Connecticut's Senate in 2020. But "I'm not doing this to break a record," Lewis tells the Washington Post. "I'm doing it to make sure my brother’s story is told as many times as possible." In that, incumbent state Senator Tony Hwang has failed, Lewis says, claiming the fellow Republican ignored his family phone's calls about a learning initiative in honor of his brother.
The political science major running for the state's 28th district, which includes Newtown, now hopes to equip schools with bulletproof glass and armed guards, believing too many discussions have focused on gun control. "If there had been an armed guard at Sandy Hook, I'm pretty sure my brother would be alive," he tells the Post, which points out that 18 years of research "casts doubt on the effectiveness of hardening schools." But Lewis, who supports President Trump due to a "personal connection" established when the pair met in December during a roundtable discussion on school security, also believes he's uniquely situated to unite Americans. Trump and former President Obama, who comforted Lewis in the aftermath of the shooting, "treated me with the utmost respect and class," he says, per the Hartford Courant. "Politics only divides us if we allow it to." (Lewis' mom wrote a book targeted by conspiracy theorists.)