Justice Democrats back Morse over Neal

  • Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, holding microphone, speaks during his campaign launch party, Monday, July 22, 2019 at Unicorn Inn in Holyoke. The mayor is challenging U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, for his seat in the 1st Congressional District. FILE PHOTO

  • Alex Morse, July 22, 2019.

Staff Writer
Published: 8/7/2019 1:21:52 PM

HOLYOKE — In his bid to unseat longtime U.S. Rep. Richard Neal in the First Congressional District, Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse has received an endorsement from the political action committee that helped elect prominent insurgent candidates like Alexandria Ocasio Cortez in 2018.

Morse received the backing of Justice Democrats, which was announced Wednesday morning. The group describes itself as a campaign to support left-leaning Democrats looking to oust more conservative members of the party in primary races. Justice Democrats had success in 2018 backing candidates like Ayanna Pressley, D-Boston, as well as Ocasio Cortez and others. To be endorsed by Justice Democrats, candidates must pledge to reject corporate PAC or corporate lobbyist money.

“Neal has been a bulwark against progressive priorities in the Democratic Party like Medicare for All and holding Trump accountable,” reads the group’s endorsement of Morse. “We need Democrats who fight for voters, not big corporate donors.” 

Neal, who was first elected to the U.S. House in 1988, earlier this year assumed the powerful role as chairman of the influential Ways and Means Committee. He is a close ally of Democratic leadership but has also come under criticism from the party’s left wing. In 2018, he won a landslide primary victory over progressive challenger Tahirah Amatul-Wadud. 

In a statement, Morse said that he was honored by the endorsement from Justice Democrats, an organization he described as bringing “a new generation of progressive leadership to Washington.”

“I am eager to work alongside other Justice Democrats to fight for Medicare for All and a Green New Deal, for policies that put working people and working families first, and to defend our democracy from the influence of special interests and corporate money,” Morse’s statement reads. “I’m not going to Washington to maintain the status quo. I want to go to Washington to fight for the people and communities of western Massachusetts.” 

In a statement, Neal campaign manager Peter Panos said that the congressman is “on the front lines” of holding Trump accountable, and defended Neal’s record advocating “for fairer taxes, affordable and accessible healthcare, taking on climate change and preserving Social Security and Medicare.”

“Richie has always fought to make sure this district gets its fair share and we aren't left behind,” Panos said.

The endorsement of Justice Democrats points to the ideological divide within the Democratic Party as the 2020 election season begins. In its endorsement of Morse, Justice Democrats cited his support for free college and “ending mass incarceration and mass deportation,” as well as Medicare for All and the Green New Deal.

The First Congressional District includes the Hampshire County municipalities of Chesterfield, Cummington, Easthampton, Goshen, Granby, Huntington, Middlefield, Plainfield, South Hadley, Southampton, Westhampton, Williamsburg and Worthington.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.
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