AOC gives Morse a homestretch boost

IN THE LATEST headline-grabber in a race that has had several in recent weeks, Alex Morse’s campaign to unseat Rep. Richard Neal in next week’s Democratic primary, the national leader of the party’s insurgent left wing, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is throwing her support behind the Holyoke mayor.

Courage to Change, the political action committee Ocasio-Cortez has deployed to boost lefty challengers to incumbents, is jumping into the First Congressional District race with less than a week to go.

“I am so proud to have the endorsement of @AOC‘s @CouragetoChange,” Morse tweeted. “When AOC took on an entrenched incumbent, she changed the Democratic Party for the better. It would be an honor to serve alongside her in Congress to fight for progressive change that benefits working families.”

From the start, political watchers have debated the degree to which Ocasio-Cortez’s 2018 victory in New York CIty over veteran Democrat Joe Crowley, or Ayanna Pressley’s win over Mike Capuano in the Boston-based district he represented for 20 years, provide a template for Morse’s run against Neal, chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. In both of those contests, race and gender played a role in the appeal of sweeping out the old and bringing in the new, with Ocasio-Cortez, who is Latino, and Pressley, who is black, bringing racial diversity and more female representation to the halls of Congress long dominated by white men.

Those dynamics don’t figure in the Western Mass. contest between a younger white man (Morse is 31) and older one (Neal is 71). And the demographics of the sprawling district, which includes Springfield and Holyoke but also scores of small towns reaching to the New York border, are very different from those of the urban districts where progressive primary challengers have recently notched victories. (On top of the 2018 wins by AOC and Pressley, challengers knocked off incumbent House Democrats this summer in primaries in St. Louis and another New York City district.)

While race and gender have not been at play in the race, sexual orientation has suddenly landed in the campaign narrative. Earlier this month, College Democrats of Massachusetts, in a letter to Morse that was then leaked to the UMass Amherst student newspaper The Daily Collegian, accused the openly gay mayor of pursuing inappropriate relationships with UMass students.

Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, left, and Rep. Richard Neal square off in a Democratic primary debate.

The news initially looked devastating to Morse’s campaign, but lots of unanswered questions surfaced, and no one has yet come forward to publicly level any accusations of misconduct against him. But lots of intrigue, including allegations of skullduggery on the part of the Massachusetts Democratic Party, has ensued. Texts emerged that gave the whole episode the look of a calculated hit job.

Morse acknowledged having consensual relationships with UMass undergrads. With his sex life suddenly in the spotlight, gay activists have voiced fears that the espisode will discourage others in the LGBT community from seeking office.

Earlier this week, the New York Times dug into the saga, and its headline pronounced Morse “Accused, Condemned and then Vindicated.” It now seems an open question whether the whole ordeal might give Morse a boost. It has certainly brought attention to a race that had been overshadowed by the Markey-Kennedy primary for Senate and open contest for the House seat being vacated by Kennedy.

Could the endorsement from Ocasio-Cortez give Morse a further bigger boost as the race comes down to the wire?

Ed Markey sure seems to think it’s political gold to have her attached to your run. Besides the Malden pol himself, AOC’s image pops more in his Senate campaign ads than that of any Massachusetts resident. And in speeches and debates we’ve probably been told more times by Markey that he is cosponsor with her of the Green New Deal than we’ve been reminded that his father “drove a truck for the Hood milk company.” (And that’s saying something).

There’s reason, however, to wonder whether her endorsement will be as powerful for Morse. Markey has used Ocasio-Cortez’s backing to push the idea that he’s the true progressive in his tilt with Joe Kennedy, despite their virtually identical positions on nearly every major issue.

In the Western Mass. contest, actual differences are clear between the candidates, and Morse’s status as the more progressive choice is not in dispute. But the AOC endorsement puts a nationally recognized exclamation mark on it — and that’s certainly good news for Morse.

MICHAEL JONAS

 

FROM COMMONWEALTH

As Republicans gather in Charlotte, a super PAC with ties to Gov. Charlie Baker is backing Democrats in Massachusetts. The governor says he is a member of the “pragmatic and practical Republican Party.”

The late Republican governor Paul Cellucci’s daughter and grandson cut an ad for Sen. Ed Markey.

The US Citizenship and Immigration Service cancels a planned furlough but the spending cuts needed to make that happen will drive up wait times.

There are wide disparities in unemployment across the state, with Lawrence coming in at 31 percent.

Opinion: Carol Rose of the ACLU of Massachusetts and Scott Hoffman of the American Postal Service Workers Union local say attacks on the Postal Service are attacks on democracy.

 

FROM AROUND THE WEB             

 

BEACON HILL

Gov. Charlie Baker said Tuesday he wasn’t invited to the Republican National Convention. (MassLive) 

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Recognizing that lots of people look to libraries these days not just for books but for internet access, the Boston Public Library is reopening its main Copley Square branch for use of its computers, and will boost the WiFi signal people can pick up outside nine still-closed neighborhood branches. (Boston Globe)

With free testing available, the number of COVID-19 tests administered in Framingham skyrockets. (MetroWest Daily News)

The Mashpee Board of Selectmen voted to table a proposed proclamation to support the local police department, an effort that had been intended to reassure the department the town had no plan to defund it. (Cape Cod Times)

Police said the body of Sgt. Elder Fernandes, a Brockton native who went missing from the US Army’s Fort Hood base in Texas, was found in a nearby city on Tuesday evening. (The Enterprise) 

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Tufts Dental School is laying off nearly 20 percent of its staff, citing plunging revenue due to the pandemic. (Boston Globe)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Three people were shot, two fatally, during overnight unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where an unarmed black man was shot seven times by police earlier this week. (New York Times) The police shooting in Wisconsin is reverberating around Boston, with elected leaders and Black Lives Matter activists saying that what happened to Jacob Blake 1,000 miles away only intensifies the need for more police oversight here. (WGBH)

ELECTIONS

President Trump put the full power of the government to use in promoting his reelection during the second night of the Republican National Convention, drawing questions — and a potential House investigation — about the propriety of the moves. (Washington Post)

The convention is turning on its head the broad assessment that Trump has badly managed the coronavirus pandemic and suggesting that his bold leadership has all but conquered it. (Washington Post) 

The Daily News of Newburyport, along with the Eagle-Tribune, Salem News, and Gloucester Times, endorse Angus McQuilken over the incumbent Seth Moulton in the 6th congressional district. “We think it’s time for a change from an incumbent clearly looking for his next job to someone engaged with the people of the district and their needs,” the editorial says.

It’s not only hard to keep up with the roster of candidates in the Democratic primary scrum in the Fourth Congressional District, it’s getting hard to keep up with who’s leveling what attack on whom. (Boston Globe)

US Attorney Andrew Lelling files a brief in support of a lawsuit seeking a 10-day extension in the period for counting mail-in ballots. (State House News Service)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

A former Centerfolds dancer collects $8.6 million from the strip club’s insurance company. A judge found the insurer had improperly denied the dancer’s claim following a car crash in which she was driving while intoxicated from drinks she was served by the club. (Telegram & Gazette)

Weymouth officials say the owner of a local motel owes taxes and has violated local and state laws, but a lawyer for the owner says they’re targeting the property over potential plans to house homeless people. (Patriot Ledger)

A social media campaign is targeting a general store in Huntington for referring to COVID-19 as the “China virus.” (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

EDUCATION

All 15 charter schools in Boston — independent schools largely with non-unionized teachers — plan to start the school year with fully remote learning, an indication, writes the Globe’s James Vaznis, that resistance to in-person classes goes beyond the agenda of teachers unions.

A group of parents has begun a petition drive calling on the Manchester Essex Regional School District to bring kindergarten through third grade students back for in-person classes this fall. The district plans to start the year fully remote. (Gloucester Daily Times)

Randolph educators and parents rallied Tuesday and called for the rehiring of staff. (Patriot Ledger)

Massachusetts private schools see an uptick in interest following plans for public schools to go remote (MassLive)

ARTS/CULTURE

Afro-Latino artist Shaun Leandro’s show depicting images of black and Latino men killed by police, which was abruptly canceled from its planned exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, will open this week at the Mass. Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams. (Boston Globe)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Suffolk DA Rachael Rollins says she’ll move for hearings to allow defendants to be held without bail rather than ask for high bail amounts in cases involving potentially dangerous defendants. (Boston Globe)

MEDIA

Another look at the Trump campaign’s ad takeover of the Washington Post, running spots with misleading claims the post has condemned on Facebook. (Columbia Journalism Review)