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'Twists And Turns' Shake Up Neal-Morse Race, But It May All Have 'Zero Effect' On Outcome

Over the last week, the Democratic primary for the First Congressional District of Massachusetts took an unexpected turn. The challenger, Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, has pushed back strongly against allegations of inappropriate conduct. 

Following a report in the Massachusetts Daily Collegian about complaints from the College Democrats, Morse acknowledged he dated some college students, but none he taught as a lecturer at UMass Amherst.

"I am adamant, and I will not apologize for being an adult and for having consensual relationships with other men," Morse told WBUR. "I will not apologize for using gay dating apps in western Massachusetts"

The Intercept has reported that a student may have planted the story to curry favor with the incumbent member of Congress, Richard Neal.

Some supporters of Morse feel this accusation, and an attempt to recall Morse as mayor, are homophobic.

"It's hard to understand people's motivation behind things like this," panelist Kristin Palpini said. "When the story first broke, it seemed pretty honest. But now, as the story keeps going, we get all these twists and turns."

Palpini is not sure the controversy has actually hurt the Morse campaign, pointing to the $130,000 the campaign said it raised on Wednesday, far above his previous one-day high.

Panelist Ron Chimelis said, in the end, the whole controversy will have "zero effect on the race."

"One thing I've noticed, that Republicans, Democrats, liberals, progressives and conservatives all have in common is they're very flexible on their view of ethics if they like the candidates' politics," Chimelis said. "So I think the people who like what Alex Morse stands for will still vote for him, and the people who don't will have another reason not to."

As for Neal, he's been quiet about the situation surrounding his opponent, denying any involvement with the accusations against Morse. In a statement to The Berkshire Eagle, Neal said he's focused on both candidates' political records.

Meanwhile, a recent poll by WBUR found voters in Massachusetts are split over a ballot question on ranked-choice voting. Under the system, voters would rank candidates in order of preference instead of a winner-take-all vote. If approved, this would go into effect for statewide federal races. In the survey, 27% of respondents said they were undecided — many because they didn't understand the proposed system.

And finally this week, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker unveiled a new color-coded map, and annnounced steps to assist communities deemed at high or moderate risk of COVID-19 outbreaks. Higher-risk cities and towns will get help from the state, as well as potential federal funding, enhanced testing and contact tracing.


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Adam joined NEPM as a freelance reporter and fill-in operations assistant during the summer of 2011. For more than 15 years, Adam has had a number stops throughout his broadcast career, including as a news reporter and anchor, sports host and play-by-play announcer as well as a producer and technician.
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