What a difference two weeks make.
Alex Morse’s primary campaign for Congress in Massachusetts was gaining serious momentum, with his progressive bonafides and policy priorities providing an undeniable contrast to the long-unchallenged, remarkably corrupt Rep. Richard Neal (MA-1). By early August, it was alarming enough to entrenched interests that Neal’s allies began playing dirty.
On August 7th, a letter from the College Democrats at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst that contained vague, anonymous accusations about the 31-year-old Holyoke mayor’s dating life was published in the Daily Collegian, the student-run newspaper. To outside observers, it seemed like a potential bombshell, dropped out of the blue.
Morse and his team, though, were as ready as they could be without any sort of smoking gun to hide.
“They had been shopping a story around for a couple of months, so we had some indication that something was up,” Morse told Progressives Everywhere this week. “But there was nothing specific and we didn’t know exactly what was going on.”
Almost immediately after the initial letter was published, the truth began to emerge. Long story short, it turns out that it was a total hit job — and a sloppy one at that. Reporting shows that the allegations were manufactured by students looking to gain favor with 16-term incumbent Rep. Neal, and the state party actively helped and encouraged it.
“It was designed to be as vague as possible, but also as salacious as possible,” Morse says. “They knew exactly what they were doing three weeks before the primary election.”
Neal has denied any involvement, but reporting suggests otherwise. Facing one of the first serious challenges in his 32-year congressional career, the powerful chair of the House Ways and Means Committee and top recipient of corporate cash in Congress is pulling out all the stops. He just received another $100,000 from the right-wing group that funneled cash to Eliot Engel before he fell to Jamaal Bowman in June. That Neal helped block investigations of President Trump until they were largely facile makes him popular with big donors, though not so much with constituents.
The primary takes place on September 1st, giving Morse a week to close what is now just a five-point gap on Neal. The stakes are extremely high — Morse, the progressive young mayor who supports Medicare for All and a Green New Deal, could be the latest challenger to unseat a long-serving, centrist incumbent and strike a major blow to the party’s status quo. We reconnected this week so he could tell Progressives Everywhere members about the state of the campaign and how he plans on winning it all.
After 32 years, Richard Neal knows how Washington works. But I want to change how Washington works.
— Alex Morse (@AlexBMorse) August 25, 2020
It’s been a crazy few weeks — how are you?
We’re in a much better place today than we were a week and a half ago, when things were pretty intense. It seems like things are really turning a corner and we have a lot of momentum right now. We’re having our best fundraising period of the entire campaign. We had a poll out on Monday that had us within five points. We had a really great debate on Monday night and have another one tomorrow night [Ed note: read the recap here] and a lot of local endorsements from local elected officials keep rolling in.
I think the events of the last week and a half, the political attack has really backfired in the district and people are getting more and more inspired to come off the sidelines and get involved in the campaign.
I’ve noticed more donations coming in through my newsletter and ActBlue page.
Last Wednesday alone we raised $130,000 in one day. Our previous high day was $27,000. I think in that one day alone, something like 3900 people donated. It helps close the gap between the congressman and I, given all the corporate money that he has. There are more people paying attention now than ever before. We’re taking advantage of that attention, people are taking a closer look at the race and our differences.