Neal outspent Morse by more than 2-1; 1st District primary cost Dems $8M

  • From left, U.S. Rep Richard Neal, D-Springfield, and Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse speak at their election-night events on Sept. 1, 2020. Neal defeated Morse to keep his House seat in the 1st Congressional District. GAZETTE FILE PHOTOS

  • Supporters of U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, hold a standout near the corner of Northampton and Dwight Streets in Holyoke on Aug. 29. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 10/17/2020 2:54:36 PM

HOLYOKE — In the final weeks before the 1st Congressional District’s Democratic primary election, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal and his ultimately unsuccessful challenger, Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, both raised and spent big money.

That’s according to new campaign finance reports that both campaigns filed Thursday, detailing the money they raised and spent during the year’s third quarter, from Aug. 13 through Sept. 30. The reports filed on Oct. 15 with the Federal Election Commission, or FEC, show that Morse raised $869,346 in that period and spent $1,087,255, leaving him with $78,814 still on hand. Neal — the top recipient of corporate political action committee money in the U.S. House — raised $875,730 and spent $1,395,592, ending the period with $2,238,749 cash on hand.

In total, Morse spent $2.11 million during his campaign against Neal after raising a total of $2.19 million, 98.7% of which came from individual contributors.

Neal, who has held his seat for 32 years, spent more than double what Morse spent: $5.89 million. He raised a total of $4.73 million, 60% of which came from political action committees, or PACs.

The election drew a national spotlight as another example of a young progressive from the left challenging a powerful member of Democratic Party leadership. Neal ultimately won in a landslide, netting some 60% of the total vote in the district, which includes all of Berkshire County, all of Hampden County except for one precinct in Palmer, and parts of Franklin, Hampshire and Worcester counties.

The new FEC reports cover a time period that includes the final 20 days of the campaigns — a period when candidates tend to spend big on advertising and get-out-the-vote efforts.

During that 20-day period, Morse spent $673,594 on digital, print and television ads, according to a Gazette review of the FEC reports. His campaign also spent $22,542 on payroll during that period. Neal, meanwhile, spent $619,804 on advertising leading up to election day, as well as $76,854 on wages for 69 employees.

In addition to advertising, Neal’s biggest expenditures over the entire quarter were $146,645 on printing and mailing, $137,740 on wages and $337,720 on consulting and strategy services. Neal refunded $11,300 in campaign contributions during the period.

Morse, in addition to his ad buys, spent $125,350 on consulting services during the quarter. He spent a total of $12,233 on payroll, $11,584 on research services, $15,538 on printing and $80,122 on software. Morse also spent $71,900 refunding campaign contributions.

Campaign finance was a central topic of conversation during the election, with both candidates taking jabs at their opponent’s fundraising and the sources of that money.

Neal, a top fundraiser in Congress, raised around 47% of his money during the entire election cycle from business PACs, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

During the third quarter, Neal pulled in 64% of his money from PACs, including maximum $5,000 contributions from medical device company Abiomed, the lobbying firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, the American Council of Life Insurers, the American Hotel and Lodging Association, Anheuser-Busch, Delta Airlines, the pharmaceutical company Endo, Facebook, health insurance company Humana, the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers, People’s Bank, gas and utility giant Southern Co., and the construction equipment company Caterpillar.

Neal also received maximum contributions from medical groups including the American College of Physician Services, the American College of Radiology Association, the American Medical Association, the American Podiatric Medical Association, the pharmaceutical distribution trade group The Healthcare Distribution Alliance and the Healthcare Supply Chain Association.

Morse received 98% of his third-quarter contributions from individual donors. The portion of that money that did not come from individual donors included $5,000 contributions from U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Courage to Change PAC, MoveOn.Org’s PAC and the LGBTQ Victory Fund’s federal PAC.

Former presidential candidate Andrew Yang’s Humanity Forward PAC also contributed to Morse’s campaign, and the environmental group Sunrise Movement’s PAC gave in-kind support for get-out-the-vote efforts.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at


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