A poll released on Monday revealed a potentially tight race between Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA), chair of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, and Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse (D) in Massachusetts’ First Congressional District Democrat primary.
The Beacon Research poll, conducted August 15–16 among 391 registered voters in the district, showed 46 percent favoring Neal, 41 percent favoring Morse, and 13 percent undecided.
Morse, 31, launched his campaign against Neal, a 30-year incumbent, last July in what many perceived as a long shot, but he was quick to pick up endorsements from several progressive groups, including Justice Democrats, a political action committee seeking to oust “out-of-touch” Democrats from Congress and priding itself on the unexpected victories in the 2018 election cycle of “Squad” members Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), among others.
The group more recently contributed to Jamaal Bowman’s defeat of Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), another 30-year incumbent who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Cori Bush’s defeat of Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-MO), indicating another string of upsets against establishment party figures.
The race in Massachusetts’ first district made national headlines earlier this month after college Democrats accused Morse of sexual misconduct; however, following revelations that the accusations may have been manufactured for political purposes, Justice Democrats doubled down on its endorsement, announcing that “it’s time to defeat Corporate America’s Favorite Democrat, Richard Neal.”
An enthused Morse replied he was “grateful for the support”:
Grateful for the support of @justicedems.
Together we're taking on the establishment and on September 1st we will defeat Corporate America's Favorite Democrat.
— Alex Morse (@AlexBMorse) August 14, 2020
The latest poll also asked, “Have you heard or read anything in the past week about an issue involving Alex Morse and a group of College Democrats at UMass Amherst?” Of those who responded yes, 18 percent said it made them “more inclined to support Richard Neal,” 21 percent said it made them “more inclined to support Alex Morse,” and 55 percent said it “didn’t change my opinion either way.”
The accusations against Morse were leveled by the College Democrats of Massachusetts (CDMA) through University of Massachusetts Amherst’s student newspaper on August 7, but an Intercept investigation showed communication as far back as October 2019 indicating one of the CDMA member’s intentions to attack Morse’s campaign.
The Intercept’s latest findings further revealed that at the state level, the Massachusetts Democratic Party was communicating with the students prior to the allegations going public, despite the organization’s bylaws requiring it remain neutral in primaries. The outlet reported Monday that state party Executive Director Victoria Martinez also told students to destroy communication records between the state party and CDMA.
The latest poll suggests Morse’s campaign, which has fully rejected the claims of misconduct, has not been negatively impacted by the allegations; the campaign also announced Friday after the tumultuous week that it had seen its most successful week of fundraising yet. The primary takes place in just over two weeks on September 1.