Neal, Morse to debate in August

  • Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, left, and U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield. GAZETTE FILE PHOTOS

  • Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, left, and U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield. GAZETTE FILE PHOTOS

Staff Writer
Published: 7/31/2020 7:15:01 PM

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the time of the debate on New England Public Media WGBY TV. The debate will take place at 7 p.m. on Aug. 17.

EASTHAMPTON — One debate has been set, with a second in the works, between U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, and his challenger, Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, for the U.S. House seat the 1st Congressional District.

The first debate will take place on Aug. 17 at 7 p.m. on New England Public Media WGBY TV, and is hosted by a media consortium that includes The Republican, MassLive, New England Public Media and The Berkshire Eagle.

Morse campaign manager Max Clermont has said that a second debate has been finalized with WWLP-22News in Chicopee. The station told the Gazette that debate details have not yet been announced. The Democratic primary is Sept. 1.

Neal, 71, was first elected to his seat in 1988. He is the dean of the Massachusetts federal delegation and chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee.

Morse, 31, has been the mayor of Holyoke since 2012 when as a recent college graduate he became the youngest and first openly gay mayor in the city’s history.

The 1st Congressional race has drawn national attention as an example of another primary battle between incumbents in positions of leadership in the Democratic Party and candidates running to their left to try to unseat them.

Morse has been backed by Justice Democrats, the organization behind progressive candidates like Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and Jamaal Bowman, who in 2018 and 2020, respectively, were elected over powerful party chairmen in New York. The group’s candidates have also lost to powerful incumbents, too, like when immigration and human rights attorney Jessica Cisneros lost a close race with Rep. Henry Cuellar in Texas in 2019.

Neal has the backing of other prominent Democrats, including U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Northampton, and a recent endorsement by civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, who died July 17. In 2018, Neal won reelection in a landslide against progressive challenger Tahirah Amatul-Wadud, a Springfield lawyer who like Morse ran on Medicare for All as a central issue.

Hampshire County cities and towns in the 1st Congressional District are Easthampton, Chesterfield, Cummington, Goshen, Granby, Huntington, Middlefield, Plainfield, South Hadley, Southampton, Westhampton, Williamsburg and Worthington. The district also includes all of Berkshire County, all of Hampden County except for one precinct in Palmer, and parts of Franklin and Worcester counties.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Massachusetts has passed a law allowing all Massachusetts voters to vote by mail. Registered voters should have already received a vote-by-mail application, which must be delivered to a local election office no later than four business days before the Sept. 1 election.

The applications — which are also available for download on the secretary of state’s website or by contacting the state’s Elections Division — are preaddressed to local election officials and require no postage. Residents can register to vote on the secretary of state’s website.

The election will also have additional early voting days to prevent crowding at polling  places. Those days will be held Aug. 22 to 28.

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


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