Neal fends off challenge from Morse, who ran strongly in Hampshire, Franklin counties

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  • Congressman Richard Neal greets supporters gathered at the corner of East Street and Fourth Street in Pittsfield on election day for the state primary. Tuesday, September 1, 2020. BERKSHIRE EAGLE/Stephanie Zollshan

  • Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse drops his mask briefly to address a score of supporters of his bid for the 1st Congressional District holding a standout on the Easthampton rotary on Saturday afternoon, Aug. 29, 2020. STAFF FILE PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse is greeted by supporters at a post-election gathering at Jay's Bed and Breakfast in Holyoke after his loss in a bid to unseat U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, in the Democratic primary on Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse speaks to supporters at a post-election gathering in Holyoke after his loss in a bid to unseat U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, in the Democratic primary on Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse speaks to supporters at a post-election gathering in Holyoke after his loss in a bid to unseat U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, in the Democratic primary on Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse pauses during his concession speech as several of his supporters shouted for him to run again against incumbent U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield. Photographed at the post-election gathering at Jay’s Bed and Breakfast in Holyoke on Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Congressman Richie Neal's grandchildren enter Union Station in Springfield for his speech, Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020 after it was confirmed he had defeated Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse in the Democratic Primary.  STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Congressman Richie Neal is applauded by a group of supporters during his speech, Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020 at Union Station in Springfield after defeating Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse in the Democratic Primary.  STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Congressman Richie Neal speaks, Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020 at Union Station in Springfield after defeating Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse in the Democratic Primary.  STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Congressman Richie Neal is applauded by a group of supporters during his speech, Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020 at Union Station in Springfield after defeating Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse in the Democratic Primary.  STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Congressman Richie Neal gives a thumbs up as he arrives at the podium for his speech, Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020 at Union Station in Springfield after defeating Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse in the Democratic Primary.  STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Congressman Richie Neal speaks, Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020 at Union Station in Springfield after defeating Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse in the Democratic Primary.  STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Congressman Richie Neal speaks, Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020 at Union Station in Springfield after defeating Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse in the Democratic Primary.  STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Congressman Richie Neal speaks, Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020 at Union Station in Springfield after defeating Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse in the Democratic Primary.  STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Congressman Richie Neal speaks, Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020 at Union Station in Springfield after defeating Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse in the Democratic Primary.  STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Congressman Richie Neal poses for a selfie with Valerie Gonzalez of Springfield, Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020 at Union Station in Springfield after defeating Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse in the Democratic Primary.  STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Congressman Richie Neal's granddaughter applauds during his speech beside his son, Rory, and his daughter-in-law, Stacy, Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020 at Union Station in Springfield after defeating Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse in the Democratic Primary.  STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse speaks to media in Holyoke after his concession speech on Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING 

  • Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse speaks to supporters at a post-election gathering in Holyoke after his loss in a bid to unseat U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, in the Democratic primary on Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING 

  • Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse speaks to supporters at a post-election gathering in Holyoke after his loss in a bid to unseat U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, in the Democratic primary on Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Published: 9/1/2020 10:04:22 PM

HOLYOKE — A strong showing in the population centers of the 1st Congressional District gave U.S. Rep. Richard Neal the votes to overcome a forceful challenge from Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse in Tuesday’s Democratic primary.

Garnering approximately 60% of the overall vote, Neal won in most of the cities and towns in the district, including a 7,466-vote margin over Morse in Springfield — by far the district’s largest city and Neal’s base. Neal also won in Morse’s hometown of Holyoke by 4,366 votes to 3,940.

Morse did win a significant amount of support in Hampshire and Franklin counties, though. He won Easthampton by 3,495 to 2,278 votes, and also won Southampton, Williamsburg and almost all of the hilltowns in the district. Neal had the advantage in South Hadley and Granby, as well as in the district’s biggest cities, including Chicopee, Pittsfield and Westfield.

Neal has represented the district since redistricting in 2012, and has held his House seat for 32 years. Since 2018, he has been chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.

There is no Republican candidate on the ballot in November, meaning Neal will run unopposed. The 1st Congressional District covers all of Berkshire County, all of Hampden County except one precinct in Palmer, and parts of Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester counties.

After declaring victory Tuesday night, Neal addressed the news media at Springfield’s Union Station, which Neal has often held up as a significant achievement of his time in Congress. He steered some $80 million in federal earmarks toward the reconstruction of the station, which finished in 2017.

On Tuesday, he spoke underneath the same clock he said he stood under in 1977 when he announced his campaign for Springfield’s City Council. At the time, he said, he made a commitment to restore the old train station.

“I delivered,” Neal said. “And my intention is to keep delivering.”

Neal thanked the voters of the district “for their confidence in me” and the agenda his campaign put forward. He said he won Tuesday’s primary “with working-class Democrats.”

He touted his role in helping draft the Affordable Care Act, saying that “now, we need to continue” working toward expanding it so “that universal health care is there for all members of the American family.” He also said he delivered $1.2 billion in coronavirus relief to the region.

“We will put legislative action behind the powerful words of the recognition of racial and economic disparities that still confront America,” he said. “We must address concentrated wealth in this country and level the playing field for everyone.”

Neal also called for “bold investment in infrastructure,” saying money needed to be placed into roads, bridges and rail. He also reiterated his support for east-west rail in the state, from Boston to Pittsfield.

Morse, who ran on a platform featuring the Green New Deal and Medicare for All, spoke to supporters and the media from Jay’s Bed & Breakfast in Holyoke. Met with loud cheers, He pledged to fight on against a “broken federal system.” He repeated a slogan he said he has relied on during his mayoral campaigns: “We’re not done yet.”

In particular, Morse took issue with Neal’s status as the top recipient of corporate PAC money in the entire U.S. House. He said his campaign was against one of the most powerful incumbents in Washington, and that much of that power comes from his corporate backers — “corporations that are exploiting the working class of this city and this country,” he said. “This is who fund our congressman right here in western Massachusetts.”

When asked if he’d run again for the seat, Morse said he wouldn’t rule anything out.

Morse was able to pull closer to defeating Neal than Tahirah Amatul-Wadud, the Springfield lawyer who challenged Neal from the left in the Democratic primary in 2018. Amatul-Wadud won just under 30% of the vote when she took on Neal with less backing than Morse had from national progressive groups.

The contest between Morse and Neal received scrutiny from news media across the country as another example of a candidate from the party’s left seeking to oust more conservative party leaders.

Millions of dollars in outside spending poured into the race. Neal spent big from his large campaign coffers, while Morse raised more than $2 million from individual donors.

Ultimately, it seemed to be a night for incumbents, as U.S. Sen. Ed Markey defeated challenger U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III.

Neal received backing from the party establishment, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi had thrown her support behind Kennedy as well as Neal. Morse received endorsements from a broad coalition of progressive groups, including the Sunrise Movement and Justice Democrats.




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