Probe into Neal primary challenger

Mayor Alex Morse


By Jim Smith

Alex Morse, the 31-year-old mayor of Holyoke in western Massachusetts, is under investigation by UMass Amherst following allegations from student groups that he abused his position of power by engaging in sexual relations with students, this while serving as as adjunct instructor at the university for the past several years.

Morse is in a close Democratic primary race with Massachusetts First Congressional District incumbent Rep. Richard Neal, one of Ireland's strongest supporters in Congress.

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In addition to being chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, the 71-year-old Neal is chairman of the Congressional Friends of Ireland and last fall was the recipient of the Irish American Democrats Lifetime Achievement Award.

College Democrats of Massachusetts, UMass Amherst Democrats, and Amherst College Democrats, issued a joint letter to Morse last Thursday telling him the he is "no longer welcome" at their events because of what they described as his pattern of reaching out to students on social media and then engaging them in sexual activity.

The groups have disavowed any connection to the Neal campaign, and observers say that it is unlikely that a collection of college groups would be jumping on the bandwagon of someone deemed a persona non grata by many youthful voters and others in the "progressive" movement who are rallying strongly behind Morse in his campaign against the much more "moderate" Neal, who, unlike Morse, does not support Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, or legalized prostitution.

"Our organization feels that it is incumbent upon us to call out inappropriate behavior regardless of party affiliation or political ideology," the email to Morse reads.

In a tweet over the weekend, Morse, who is openly gay, said that, while acknowledging having had sex with young men enrolled at local universities, he has "never had a non-consensual sexual encounter with anyone," or taken advantage of any students.

Morse, a Brown University graduate who has been a rising star in the Democratic party, became Holyoke mayor when he was 22.

He said that he is buoyed by the support of so many in the community and around the nation and that he has no intention of dropping out of the race. Justice Democrats, an activist group which helped propel Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to power in New York, is now making a push on his behalf.

"For my part, I intend to take our campaign's progressive, inclusive message to the voters....I look forward to seeing Congressman Neal on the debate stage next week," Morse said in reference to a televised debate set for Monday, August 17.

The investigation by UMass may not be the only one faced by Morse. Holyoke City Councilor Michael Sullivan and at least one other member of that board have called for Morse to resign as mayor and for a local investigation to be be initiated.

The Neal campaign has issued no comment about the imbroglio, although it may well come up at next Monday's debate.