'Despicable.' 'Appalling.' 'Disgusting.' Campaigns Fight Over TV Ad

Jul 24, 2020

This week, the heat was turned up a bit in the Democratic race for Massachusetts' 1st Congressional District. The challenger, Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, sent out mailers and unveiled a TV commercial, highlighting his late brother's struggles with opioid addiction.

Doug Morse died this year of an overdose. In the ad, Morse said his brother fell through the cracks of a "cruel health care system."

"But in Washington, instead of standing up for patients, Richie Neal is using his power and seniority to fight for the same drug companies that are fueling this crisis," Morse said to the camera. "I'm running for Congress to fight for people like my brother." 

The campaign for Congressman Richard Neal fired back, saying "invoking the loss of a family member in an attack full of lies is despicable and appalling.” Morse's campaign called that response "disgusting."

Panelist Matt Szafranski said he does not think there's anything wrong with a political candidate referencing a family tragedy during the campaign.

"And people I've spoken to think that if the ad had just stopped there, it would have been excellent," Szafranski said. "The problem is that they kind of pivoted it into an attack ad, which is not entirely true. I mean, it's not like Neal hasn't done anything on this [opioid] issue."

Also this week, policing reform has been on the agenda for lawmakers in Massachusetts and Connecticut. The Connecticut House passed a bill, that rolls back protections for police — known as qualified immunity — against civil lawsuits.

Representative Brandon McGee is co-chair of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus. He’s urged support for the bill.

"There are worlds between what the sound of a police siren means to my neighbors on the North End of Hartford, and to those of my neighbors in the suburbs," McGee said.

Police unions protested the legislation, which now moves on to the state Senate.

In Massachusetts, the Senate passed a bill last week, but the House has been working on its own version since Wednesday that's been bogged down in amendments. This comes as the legislative session is scheduled to end next week. 

Also this week, The Republican newspaper revealed that a Springfield police officer admitted to an assault charge in court for forcibly removing a person from the police station by his throat. This comes after the officer was cleared by the department and a civilian review board.

“Only in Springfield would an officer plead to criminal conduct and not miss a day of work,” said Howard Friedman, a lawyer for the victim. 

Panelist Kristin Palpini said she doubts Springfield is the only place that would happen, but said "it was messed up."

"You would think that there would be at least some kind of suspension or some kind of repercussions from the city," Palpini said. "There was a video; it was very obvious what happened. And it hurts the community if they don't see these actions corrected by the city."

This is the latest in several legal cases and settlements against the Springfield police. And recently, the U.S. attorney for Massachusetts, Andrew Lelling, found the narcotics division routinely used excessive force.

In other news, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker extended the COVID-19-related moratorium on most foreclosures and evictions until mid-October. Some landlords have sued the state, saying the move infringes on their constitutional rights.

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