Neal beats back primary challenge from progressive Alex Morse in Massachusetts

Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), the chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, fended off a primary challenge from Holyoke, Mass., Mayor Alex Morse on Tuesday in a blow to progressives who had hoped to unseat the longtime incumbent.

The Associated Press called the race for Neal just before 9:45 p.m. local time. The incumbent was ahead by a substantial 60 percent to 40 percent margin with nearly 60,000 votes tallied.

The 31-year-old Morse challenged Neal from the left, calling for a new generation of leadership in Washington and casting the Ways and Means chairman as an absent and detached representative for Massachusetts’s 1st Congressional District. 

Neal’s allies, however, rejected that characterization of the 16-term congressman, noting that he has held hundreds of events in the district in recent years. They also argued that Neal’s top spot on the Ways and Means Committee gave residents of the district a powerful voice in Washington that would all but vanish under Morse.

Morse’s campaign wasn’t without controversy. He was accused early last month of using his position as a guest lecturer at the University of Massachusetts Amherst to pursue sexual and romantic relationships with students. He acknowledged having had consensual relationships with some students and briefly considered ending his campaign.

He ultimately decided to remain in the race after The Intercept published messages from some of the students who had made the allegations in which they discussed potential ways to undermine Morse’s campaign. 

Neal and his campaign have denied any involvement in the allegations, and there is no evidence that he had any knowledge of the effort.

Massachusetts’s 1st District is considered safe territory for Democrats, and Republicans aren’t fielding a challenger this year, all but assuring a 17th term for Neal.

Tags 2020 elections Alex Morse Massachusetts Massachusetts politics primaries Richard Neal

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