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Democratic Primary Debate — Richard Neal vs. Alex Morse

U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Springfield, and his challenger in the Sept. 1 Democratic primary, Holyoke Mayor Alex B. Morse, will meet to debate on Monday, Aug. 17 at 7 p.m.

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The debate is being organized by a consortium of media organizations, including New England Public Media, The Republican and MassLive, and The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield.

The face-off comes two weeks prior to the primary for the 1st Congressional District seat that Neal has held in the US House of Representatives for more than 30 years. To date, it is the first debate set between the two candidates.

Due to social-distancing requirements as outlined by the state, there will be no live studio audience for the event, according to executive producer Tony Dunne, of New England Public Media. “We’re thrilled to partner with our colleagues in bringing the democratic primary candidates for the First Congressional District together for a debate about the issues that matter most to the people in our region,” said Dunne. “With our consortium of print, radio, digital and television media outlets making this available across multiple platforms, this forum for civic engagement takes on greater significance as the pandemic has limited the public’s access to the candidates.”

The hour-long debate will be moderated by Ray Hershel, of New England Public Media’s Connecting Point. The panel of questioners will include representatives of The Republican/MassLive and The Berkshire Eagle.

Each media organization will be soliciting questions from viewers and readers on topics of concern to residents of the 1st Congressional District. The district, with its lines redrawn after the 2010 census, covers 87 communities in five counties. Geographically, it is the largest district in the state.

Neal, a former mayor of Springfield, was first elected to Congress in 1988. He most recently defeated Democrat Tahirah Amatul-Wadud by 40% of the vote in 2018. In December 2018 House Democrats voted to name Neal chairman of the powerful Ways & Means Committee.

Morse, first elected at the age of 22, has been mayor of Holyoke since 2012. He was the youngest and first openly gay mayor in the city’s history. This marks his first campaign for elective office outside of Holyoke.