Inside Alex Morse’s Final Push to Topple Wall Street’s Favorite Democrat

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.

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.

Click Here to donate to Alex Morse’s campaign!

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Mondaire Jones Knows How to Fight for Progress

We’ve learned a lot these past two weeks about Americans, their elected leaders, and the massive gulf in courage between the two. Yes, Republican leaders have acted as cruelly as expected, from Donald Trump’s disturbing, televised threats to send in the military on peaceful protestors to Tom Cotton’s outrageous NY Times op-ed. But we’ve also seen so many elected Democrats utterly fail this test, over and over again, indicative of problems deeper than just pure partisanship.

Congressional leadership has been just about silent, too busy on vacation to take a real stand. Worse, Democrats that run the states and cities where many of these protests and police beatings are happening have encouraged and privileged the carnage. Here in NYC, Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo spent the week deploying vicious cops to clobber innocent people who dare violate a draconian 8 pm curfew, then applauded those officers’ “restraint.” 

We are in desperate need of change, and it’s now clear that to make it happen, we need a new generation of leaders who actually experience the stakes in their own lives. And like Alex Morse a few weeks ago, New York congressional candidate Mondaire Jones certainly fits the bill.

Jones is running in the Democratic Primary for Congress in New York’s 17th district, just north of NYC, and has been endorsed by Elizabeth Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, among othersHe’s one of five Democrats seeking the seat that the retiring Nita Lowey has held since 1989, when Jones was just two years old, underscoring the need for change. The welfare of the 17th district is personal to him, as Jones grew up in Lowey’s district, and understands what it’s like to have the odds stacked up against you — he is an openly gay black man who grew up poor in a starkly divided community he likens to a Tale of Two Cities. 

His resume at 32 years old is impeccable: Jones attended Harvard Law and worked in Barack Obama’s Department of Justice. He’s also long been an activist; Jones became a national NAACP leader in high school and organized against racist police while an undergrad at Stanford. After a short stint in corporate law, he returned home to work for the Westchester County Attorney’s office, where he’s served ever since. 

During our conversation last week, he not only expressed support for progressive policies — including Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, and a massive investment in public housing — but also displayed the fighting spirit that it’s going to require to actually get any of those things passed. And in a district that is guaranteed to elect a Democrat, having a progressive with a backbone in office is essential. That he’s running against a state senator who was a member of the turncoat IDC, which gave Republicans virtual control of New York for nearly a decade, makes this race even more urgent.

CLICK HERE to donate to Mondaire Jones via Progressives Everywhere’s ActBlue Page!

“I’m not someone who is still traumatized by Democratic losses in the ‘80s,” Jones said, winning me over in just one sentence. “We need to recognize that public opinion has shifted dramatically. Progressive policies are overwhelmingly supported by the American people. And now we need champions who can message it and who can fight for us without being afraid of their own shadow.”

America Has Always Been At War With Itself. Now, Even the Privileged Are Aware Of It.

It’s hard to believe, but last week began with a major civil rights victory.

Late last Sunday, a judge in Florida ruled again that the Jim Crow poll tax law passed by Republicans in 2019 is largely unconstitutional. Voters in 2018 explicitly and overwhelmingly chose to restore the voting rights of 1.4 million former felons who had served their time, so the GOP’s effort to block them from the ballot with fees that were impossible to deduce, let alone pay, violates the 24th amendment, the judge ruled.

While Gov. Ron DeSantis will appeal the ruling, this made hundreds of thousands of Floridians immediately eligible to vote and gave critical assistance to everyone else impacted. And remember, we’re supporting the Democratic challenger to the author of the Florida Jim Crow law.

Any celebration of that victory was short-lived, however, interrupted by the cruel intruding reality that the battle for racial justice in this country is an ongoing struggle. The most shocking part of the nauseating, cold-blooded murder of George Floyd was that it wasn’t shocking at all.

Police violence against black and brown people is an epidemic across the country, enabled by the protection that cops receive from lawmakers — even Democrats. Protests have broken out in response to incidents for decades and decades, including the recent murders of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, and Tamir Rice, but something about what’s happening now feels different. The national protests come at a boiling point, a backdrop of Trump’s malignant racism, the backdrop of 100,000+ Americans dead of coronavirus, and more than 40 million unemployed. Something has to change.

Forget the media obsession with some looting — I’m not condoning looters at all, but it’s just a tiny percentage of what’s happening; as a member of the media myself, I can tell you that a TV newsroom is much more interested in going down to Macy’s and playing on the superficial fears of its comfortable white viewership than spending too much time showing the chaos that the viewers really want to avoid. It’s like crime fiction vs. an actual documentary.

The police have been behind much of the pandemonium, and when cops can literally kill you for no reason without consequence — as is the case when there is no video — why bother staying peaceful? I hope the Democrats who run these cities and states and are owned by the police unions (hello Bill de Blasio) are taking notes — they won’t be in office for long if they don’t take action to help their people.

I’m not the person to discuss these things in depth. I’m a white guy who, no matter how politically progressive, cannot possibly understand what people of color are going through at any moment, let alone this one. So today, I’m going to let the real leaders do their work and just do my best to help them. Here are two fundraising links, to a list of organizations working to make change in Minneapolis and nationwide for black Americans and a list of bail funds to help protestors deal with ridiculous cash bail.

CLICK HERE to donate grassroots organizations working for racial justice and justice for George Floyd.

CLICK HERE to donate to bail funds across the country.

Alex Morse is taking on Rep. Richard Neal, Trump’s Favorite Democrat

Most of the time, this newsletter focuses on flipping Republican seats blue and retaking legislatures from the GOP. But if you really want to enact progressive change, it’s not always enough to just have a Democrat in office — in seats that are comfortably blue, we’ve got to have Democrats who actually listen to voters. 

The dynamic playing out in Massachusetts provides a perfect example: Congressman Richard Neal, who represents the state’s 1st district, has time and time again blocked popular progressive priorities as the Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee. He’s received more lobbyist money and enjoyed more lavish parties than anyone in Congress and has more than returned the favor, blocking everything from the Paycheck Guarantee Act during this pandemic to Medicare expansion. He also deliberately slow-walked the request for Donald Trump’s tax returns and did not support impeachment until it became an inevitability — all while representing a district that Hillary Clinton won by 20 points and he has “represented” for 30 years.

This year, he finally faces a real primary challenge from a dynamic progressive who could not be any more different than the 70-year-old Congressman, who hasn’t held a town hall in years. And if you’re skeptical, all you have to do is compare their records.

When Alex Morse unseated a long-serving local politician to become mayor of Holyoke, Massachusetts, he vowed to revive the struggling former mill town where he’d grown up. He faced long odds and internal resistance, but he was determined to restore a community that had spent decades reeling from the same factors that hollowed out small cities across the United States between the 1970s and early 2000s. When he took office at City Hall, he was immediately faced with a decision that would set the tone for how he planned to govern.

Morse’s predecessor as mayor had requested that the US Department of Housing and Urban Development clear the way for the demolition of Lyman Terrace, one of the city’s largest public housing properties. The complex was located right in the center of downtown Holyoke, so the plan was to knock Lyman down and bring in some shiny new apartments, displacing the 167 mostly Latino residents who had no real options for relocation. When Morse took the reins at City Hall, he called HUD and told them to hold off on the required review.

“This was a community of people who lived there for generations, with ties to the local economy, and friends and family,” Morse tells Progressives Everywhere. “We called off that demolition and got a lot of pushback from city councilors from the business community that just wanted to raze the property and give it to the developer with the highest bid.”

There’s a war brewing in New York as Cuomo targets progressives, WFP

Though New York is considered a blue state lock in federal elections, it is far from a model of good progressive governance. Right now, there’s a pitched battle for control of the Democratic Party in the state, and two important headlines from this week indicate both how far we’ve come and how hard corrupt corporate are pushing back.

The good news? Thanks to laws pushed by progressive activists and passed by new lawmakers, rent is no longer ballooning and evictions are way down. The bad news? The governor is trying to squash those activists (namely the Working Families Party) to make sure they don’t do anything else that might help people.

So, a little context. In 2011, a group of crappy conservative Democrats in the State Senate broke away from the party and caucused with the Republicans, throwing control of the chamber to the GOP. Instead of being pissed at the new Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), Gov. Andrew Cuomo was perfectly happy to let it continue. The IDC gave him cover for not passing popular progressive reforms like rent protection, voting rights expansion, and crucially,  closing a gaping loophole in campaign finance laws that let corporations feed candidates with nearly unlimited donations.

By last year, things were starting to get really crappy, with skyrocketing rents and shady politicians constantly getting indicted.

Fed up with the status quo and no doubt energized by the national resistance to Donald Trump, progressive activists decided to fight back. With the help of organizations, especially the Working Families Party, a new generation of candidates took on the entrenched and out-of-touch IDC members. The Working Families Party also endorsed Cynthia Nixon in her high-profile primary challenge to Cuomo and Tiffany Cabán in her whisker defeat for Queens DA.

Activists busted their assses knocking on doors and organizing voters (we here at Progressives Everywhere raised nearly $17k for them) and while Cuomo bested Nixon, progressive legislature candidates beat most of the IDC members in the Democratic primary. It was truly a monumental win that changed the state’s politics in a major way.

Once sworn in this January, the newly Democratic legislature got to work, passing a huge host of reforms that expanded rent stabilization and limited landlords from jacking up prices, further expanded gun bans, protected abortion rights, introduced early voting, and much more.

And here’s the thing: their reforms are working. This week, the Wall Street Journal crunched the numbers and revealed that evictions in the state are down a whopping 46% since the tenant protection law — which limits rent increases and requires landlords to produce more proof before kicking someone out — passed in June.

One lawyer for landlords told the WSJ that “it’s like an earthquake in housing court,” because already, tens of thousands of people have been able to stay in their homes.

Great news, right?! Right! Unless you’re a real estate developer, building owner… or governor who takes millions of dollars from real estate developers and building owners!

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