Neal defeats Morse in Sept. 1 Primary Election

Sept. 2, 2020 | G. Michael Dobbs

Congressman Richard Neal defeated a challenge from Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse in the Democratic Primary.
Reminder Publishing photo by G. Michael Dobbs

SPRINGFIELD – Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse now must return to governing his city and working with the man he had hoped to unseat, Congressman Richard Neal.


With 87.73 percent of the vote in at 8 a.m. on Sept. 2, Neal had 73,229 votes to Morse’s 50,850.

Locally, Neal carried Agawam, Chicopee, East Longmeadow, Hampden, Longmeadow, Springfield, Westfield, and Wilbraham. He also won Pittsfield, where some observers thought Morse had made ground against him.

In a surprise to some, Neal won Holyoke.

Morse carried Easthampton.

Despite reports of polls that indicated Morse and Neal were in a statistical dead heat, Neal enjoyed a decisive victory over Morse on Sept. 1.

The race drew national media attention as it was framed as another contest between a progressive Democrat against the old guard of the party. Neal is the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and is the highest-ranking Democrat so far to be challenged by the progressive wing.

Neal met with the press and a handful of supporters at Union Station, making his speech shortly after 10 p.m.

 Neal credited his win to “working class Democrats,” such as the men and women who worked on the restoration of Union Station from an abandoned building to a transportation center.

He noted that through the CARES Act, which he co-wrote, $1.2 billion has come to the Commonwealth to assist in pandemic economic relief.

He also spoke about his continued agenda. “We must address concentrated wealth and level the playing field for everyone,” he said. Neal pledged to continue to protect Social Security and said now is the time for greater investment in infrastructure.

He mentioned the importance of establishing east-west passenger rail twice in his remarks.

With a smile, Neal said, “I thank the people of Holyoke, MA tonight.” The remark was greeted with sustained cheers from his supporters.

“I want to make sure no one is left behind, that’s why I’m in public service,” he noted.

Although Morse congratulated Neal for his win, it’s clear Morse was not retreating from his rhetoric that was at the center of his campaign. The song “I Won’t Back Down” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers was playing loudly on the start of the livetrapped with Morse’s remarks.

He told supporters, “I just want to start off my congratulating Congressman Richard Neal on winning his re-election tonight, but I also want to make it very clear how incredibly proud I am of what we fought for over the last 14 months,” he said.

“This wasn’t obviously personal against Congressman Neal, and I’ve always throughout this campaign said that I thank him for his public service,” Morse said.

Morse did call Neal a “liar” in the second of their two debates. In his speech Morse continued to paint Neal as someone who is not working for his district.

He then explained that this was about the future – “Too often as Democrats we point fingers at Republicans and think that they'
‘re the only party guilty of being bought and paid for by corporations, and in many ways these are members of our own party that need to be held accountable.”

Morse noted that his campaign was against “one of the most powerful Democrats – not just Democrats – one of the most powerful incumbents in Washington,” who had access to “millions and millions of dollars,” Morse said. He then indicated that Neal is linked to corporations who are not looking out for the people. “This is who funds our congressman right here in Western Massachusetts,” he said.

“When I think about what we fought for, I do not have a single regret,” Morse said.

The campaign was marked with negative ads sponsored by political action groups supporting each candidate. Those supporting Morse fired the first ad, with Pasch supporting Neal following with negative ads attacking Morse’s record as mayor.

Morse referenced that his campaign “took a little bit of a turn” over the last few weeks, alluding to accusations made by the College Democrats of Massachusetts in an article published by the USA’s Amherst campus newspaper, The Daily Collegian, on Aug. 7. The original article said the allegations are based on “three issues” that had been addressed in a letter sent by members of the organization to Morse in a private email. The Daily Collegian said the letter alleged that “Morse regularly matched with students on dating apps, including Tinder and Grinder, who were as young as 18 years old,” and “having sexual contact with college students, including at USA’s Amherst, where he teaches, and the greater Five College Consortium.” Additionally, the article alleged that Morse was “using College Democrats events to meet college students and add them on Instaurate, adding them to his ‘Close Friends’ story and [direct messaging] them, both of which have made young college students uncomfortable.”

Since then, the College Democrats of Massachusetts have apologized to Morse for the “distress” and homophobic comments that occurred by the letter alleging inappropriate behavior.

Morse explained that he felt this was a “coordinated political attack that goes all the way up to Washington D.C., Congressman Neal, the people around him, the Massachusetts Democratic party, corporations that invested billions of dollars in attack ads over the weekend.”

He said these tactics are unacceptable, and that these people need to be held accountable for their actions.

Morse did not supply evidence to support his broad accusations and Neal adamantly denied through the last weeks of the campaign that he had anything to do with the incident. Morse received national publicity because of the allegations and saw a boost in donations.

Before the results were officially called, The Victory Fund, which supports LEGIT candidates sent out a press release claiming Morse lost the race because of  “a coordinated homophobic attack launched against him in the final weeks of the campaign.”

Morse closed his speech, stating, “I will get up tomorrow morning with the same passion, and persistence, and perseverance that I got up with this morning.”

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