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'Twists And Turns' Shake Up Neal-Morse Race, But It May All Have 'Zero Effect' On Outcome

Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, left, and Rep. Richard Neal. (Courtesy Alex Morse for Congress; Niall Carson/PA via AP)
Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, left, and Rep. Richard Neal. (Courtesy Alex Morse for Congress; Niall Carson/PA via AP)

Over the last week, the Democratic primary for the First Congressional District of Massachusetts took an unexpected turn. The challenger, Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, has pushed back strongly against allegations of inappropriate conduct.

Following a report in the Massachusetts Daily Collegian about complaints from the College Democrats, Morse acknowledged he dated some college students, but none he taught as a lecturer at UMass Amherst.

"I am adamant, and I will not apologize for being an adult and for having consensual relationships with other men," Morse told WBUR. "I will not apologize for using gay dating apps in western Massachusetts"

The Intercept has reported that a student may have planted the story to curry favor with the incumbent member of Congress, Richard Neal.

Some supporters of Morse feel this accusation, and an attempt to recall Morse as mayor, are homophobic.

"It's hard to understand people's motivation behind things like this," said Kristin Palpini, the managing editor of the Daily Voice Massachusetts. "When the story first broke, it seemed pretty honest. But now, as the story keeps going, we get all these twists and turns."

Palpini is not sure the controversy has actually hurt the Morse campaign, pointing to the $130,000 the campaign said it raised on Wednesday, far above his previous one-day high.

Ron Chimelis, a reporter at the Springfield Republican, said, in the end, the whole controversy will have "zero effect on the race."

"One thing I've noticed, that Republicans, Democrats, liberals, progressives and conservatives all have in common is they're very flexible on their view of ethics if they like the candidates' politics," Chimelis said. "So I think the people who like what Alex Morse stands for will still vote for him, and the people who don't will have another reason not to."

As for Neal, he's been quiet about the situation surrounding his opponent, denying any involvement with the accusations against Morse. In a statement to The Berkshire Eagle, Neal said he's focused on both candidates' political records.

This first published as part of a larger story on New England Public Media's website.

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