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Morse rallies campaign supporters in Easthampton

  • Congressional candidate and Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse speaks to supporters in Easthampton. STAFF PHOTO/MICHAEL CONNORS

  • Alex B. Morse, who’s challenging Richard Neal in a Democraticv primary for Massachusetts’ 1st Congressional District seat. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 2/15/2020 7:30:14 PM

EASTHAMPTON — While most of the country remains fixated on the Democratic Party presidential primaries, congressional candidate and Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse is ramping up organizing efforts for his own Democratic primary election this coming Sept. 1. 

Morse’s campaign held its second organizing summit with about 20 supporters in the Eastworks building Saturday afternoon as he campaigns against incumbent U.S. Rep. Richard Neal in the 1st Congressional District.

Speaking to attendees, Morse touted progress made during his mayoral tenure on issues such as graduation and crime rates but blasted a “federal system” that he said doesn’t prioritize area like western and central Massachusetts.

“There’s an urgency to the moment we’re in today, and that urgency certainly isn’t matched by our current representative in Congress,” Morse said about Neal.

Morse criticized Neal on his reticence to organize and attend meetings and town halls across the state, charging that there are some communities Neal hadn’t visited “in years, sometimes, decades.”

Morse quickly summarized many of his policy positions, including his lack of support for the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, the trade deal that replaced NAFTA, which he said “throws our climate under the bus.” He also said he supported Medicare for All and the repeal of the Hyde Amendment, a provision that bars the use of federal funds to pay for abortions.

Morse assailed Neal on corporate finance, which has been a hotly debated issue between the two politicians.

Although Neal and Morse each raised about $125,000 in individual campaign donations in the last filing cycle, Morse pointed out that Neal received nearly $350,000 from corporate PACs, according to Federal Election Commission filings. The only PAC money Morse received was $1,000 from Justice Democrats, a progressive organization that endorsed him last August.

“We’re not taking a single dollar from corporate PACs,” Morse said.

One attendee asked Morse what he thought about claims that the region would lose pull in Congress if Neal were not re-elected, as he is chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. Morse said Neal had not asked for President Donald Trump’s tax returns despite having the authority to do so, and faulted him for helping push forward the USMCA trade deal.

“When you actually talk to people and hear their stories and their struggles … you would never know we have one of the most powerful members of Congress representing us,” he said.

Campaign adviser Sara Seinberg explained to the crowd after breakout sessions that the Morse campaign was looking for volunteers to talk with people about Morse to garner support. She pointed to low turnout among registered voters in 2018 in Springfield, the largest city in the district, and said turning that around could serve as a path toward victory.

Northampton resident Nancy Smith, 64, said she was drawn to volunteer for Morse because of his positions on campaign finance. She doesn’t live in the district, but plans on helping with social media. 

“He’s not in that position because we put them there,” Smith said about Neal. “He’s in there because he took money from the right people and he won’t support the things that the people really want.”

Elizabeth Bala, 39, of Westfield, supports Morse for a similar reason as Smith, saying she no longer believes Neal is focused on his region as he receives money from corporations. Bala, along with Chad Sico, 43, of Westfield, follow politics but have rarely volunteered, but said they wanted to begin canvassing for Morse.

“The more loud voices we have, I feel like the more influence we can have in the Democratic Party itself, and keep moving us not necessarily toward the left, but toward being a party that represents people,” Bala said.

Michael Connors can be reached at mconnors@gazettenet.com.


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