Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-NY) political action committee, Courage to Change, has endorsed out mayor Alex Morse’s bid to unseat the powerful chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Richard Neal.
Neal has held the seat for as long as Morse has been alive and the challenger’s campaign was rocked with fake sexual harassment allegations, but Morse is within striking distance of winning. Morse, 31, was fresh out of college when he was elected mayor.
Morse, the single mayor of Holyoke, Massachusetts, has bounced back after a local College Democrats group lobbed anonymous accusations in local media that he had acted inappropriately with students. Morse apologized if he had made anyone uncomfortable and stressed that any relationships he had were consensual and that he held no power over his partners.
The accusations were widely seen as a homophobic smear campaign and subsequent reporting proved that College Democrats leadership had conspired to set Morse up for a sex scandal – potentially with the help of the Massachusetts Democratic Party.
“There was no evidence, there was no corroboration, there were no folks to go on record,” Morse told CNN. “This was essentially a blog post that was then picked up and amplified by media from local to state to national. It was three weeks before this primary election, (on) a week of incredible momentum after Cori Bush beat Representative Clay, after we had our best fundraising day — the same day we got endorsed by MoveOn and the Working Families Party. It was very clear what that email was when I received it on Thursday morning.”
Neal, as chair of a powerful House committee, has been criticized for not sufficiently investigating President Trump’s administration. He has refused to endorse the Green New Deal or Medicare for All.
While Neal’s campaign has denied any involvement, messages between College Democrat leaders indicate that they expected to get internships in the Congressman’s offices as repayment for sinking Morse’s campaign.
The challenge is the hardest one Neal has faced and he is spending large amounts of money to hold onto his seat. Progressives see the opportunity to knock out the committee chair as a show of strength.
A large coalition of progressive organizations has rallied around Morse’s campaign, hoping to continue their streak of upsets. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, was defeated in his primary race against Jamaal Bowman.
If Morse is successful and Democrats continue to hold the House of Representatives, the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee would likely pass to Texas Rep. Lloyd Doggett, a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
“When it became obvious that Biden was going to be the nominee, we saw a lot of energy and momentum shift to down-ballot progressive campaigns, and our campaign in particular,” Morse said. “With a Biden administration, it’s more important now than ever before that we have more progressive members of Congress to hold his administration accountable, to make progress on health care and climate change and expand the progressive caucus.”