Neal-Morse campaign arguments sound familiar

Go with the bacon? Or go with the movement?

IN 2018, Ayanna Pressley stormed to a Democratic primary victory over US Rep. Michael Capuano with the battle cry that change can’t wait.

Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse is now trying to rally voters with a similar message in his race to unseat US Rep. Richard Neal, and many of the same arguments that played out in the Pressley-Capuano campaign are being rehashed again on the news and editorial pages of the state’s western Massachusetts newspapers.

Capuano had significant seniority in Congress and was skilled in securing funds for his district, but the Democrats at the time of the 2018 primary hadn’t yet taken control of the House – Capuano’s power was theoretical. Now Nancy Pelosi is speaker, and Neal is at the helm of the Ways and Means Committee, the fulcrum of power in Washington.

Gov. Charlie Baker, a self-described “practical and pragmatic Republican,” endorsed Neal on Thursday because of what the congressman can deliver for Massachusetts. Many of the Democrats who backed Pressley in 2018, as well as Pressley herself, have remained on the sidelines in the Neal-Morse fight, most likely for similar reasons.

Neal’s ability to deliver for his congressional district is what guided the editorial pages of the Berkshire Eagle of Pittsfield and The Republican of Springfield.

“When an incumbent has the kind of power to bring home the bacon to a constituency like Rep. Neal does, the burden of proof falls to the challenger to show why a district should discard such an advantage in high places,” said the Berkshire Eagle editorial. “Mayor Morse, riding a nascent wave of progressive energy that has shaped other House races, has mounted a formidable primary campaign that has tested a longtime incumbent. But if Rep. Neal is anything, he is indeed tested, and his proven leadership, legislative chops and chairman’s seats give the Berkshires a powerful representative in the highest halls of government.”

Similarly, The Republican wanted no part of a newcomer spouting idealism and talk of change.

“Now is not a time for rhetoric to rule, but rather reality,” the newspaper said in its editorial endorsing Neal. “As the Democratic Party has increasingly produced voices that may not be open to alternative points of view, Neal offers a more moderate tone, willing to listen and consider all perspectives. As Congress has often of late toiled to move past gridlock and iron out differences, Neal represents a voice of reason and respect.”

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Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

The Daily Hampshire Gazette of Northampton came at the race from a different perspective. “Who is the candidate most likely to bring change to Washington?” the newspaper asked in its editorial. 

“Climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, Black Lives Matter, a financial crisis, broken health care and criminal justice systems, and corruption at the highest levels of government are threatening our very survival as a nation and giving urgency to the current moment — one that must usher in structural and systemic change,” the editorial said. “This Tuesday, we urge residents of the 1st Congressional District to vote not just for a man but for a movement. Western Mass. is ready to send a message to the capital that we’re done with the status quo — and only one of these candidates can deliver it.”