BOSTON (AP) — U.S. Rep. Richard Neal of Massachusetts, the powerful chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, held off Democratic challenger Alex Morse in Tuesday’s primary after an acrimonious campaign that included allegations of sexual misconduct leveled at his younger opponent.
The contest was one of four in Massachusetts where U.S. House candidates were competing Tuesday for the chance to represent their party in the November general election.
In the 6th Congressional District, U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, a Marine Corps veteran who saw combat in Iraq and mounted a brief campaign for president last year defeated to fellow Democratic challengers — Jamie Belsito and Angus McQuilken.
The 71-year-old Neal — the longest-serving member of the state’s all-Democratic congressional delegation — defeated 31-year-old Morse, seen as a political rising star after becoming one of Massachusetts’ youngest and only openly gay mayors since becoming chief executive of Holyoke in 2011 at age 22.
Both had collected high-profile endorsements in the last days of the campaign: Neal from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Morse from U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.
The race was marked by allegations of inappropriate sexual contact with students by Morse when he was an adjunct professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Morse insisted his relationships with college students were consensual. In mid-August, the university said it launched an independent review.
Addressing supporters on election night, Morse suggested the allegations were a factor in his defeat, saying they were “clearly coordinated” to coincide with the start of early voting.
“We were up against one of the most powerful incumbents in Washington," Morse said. The LGBTQ Victory Fund, meanwhile, said Morse was the victim of a “coordinated homophobic attack.”
Neal first was elected to the U.S. House in 1988 to represent the state’s 1st congressional district, which encompasses the western portion of the state, including Pittsfield, Springfield, Lenox, North Adams and Stockbridge.
Neal will run unopposed in the November general election after Republicans failed to field a candidate.
Moulton’s win means almost certain re-election in the November general election to represent the predominantly Democratic district for a fourth term.
The 41-year-old launched an unsuccessful bid for president, exiting the crowded race last August. Moulton had focused his White House candidacy on mental health treatment after revealing his own struggles on that front as a war veteran. He was first elected to the U.S. House in 2014.
The district includes Salem, Gloucester and Newburyport.
In the 4th Congressional District, seven Democratic candidates are seeking the seat being vacated by Democratic Rep. Joe Kennedy III, who opted not to seek reelection and instead challenge Sen. Edward Markey in the U.S. Senate primary.
The candidates include Jake Auchincloss and Becky Grossman — both members of the Newton City Council — former Brookline select board member Jesse Mermell, City Year co-founder Alan Khazei, epidemiologist Natalia Linos, former Wall Street regulator Isshane Lecky, and Ben Sigel, who worked for the Democratic National Campaign Committee.
Republican Julie Hall, a veteran, defeated David Rosa on the GOP ticket.
The district winds from the Boston suburbs of Newton and Brookline south through Attleboro, Taunton and Fall River.
In the state’s 8th Congressional District, which stretches from portions of Boston south to Bridgewater, Robbie Goldstein, a 36-year-old South Boston resident, lost a challenge to longtime incumbent Rep. Stephen Lynch.
Goldstein, an infectious disease specialist and doctor at Massachusetts General, said he’s had a front row seat to what he considers the federal government’s disastrous handling of the coronavirus pandemic. He also saw himself as a candidate who's part of a wave of younger Democratic candidates trying to push the party toward a more progressive agenda.
Lynch, a former iron worker and labor leader who was born and raised in South Boston, retained the seat he’s held since 2001. Lynch has pitched himself to voters as a fighter for working families.
While Tuesday is primary day, nearly 1 million Massachusetts voters had already cast ballots at early voting locations, by mailing them in or by depositing them in drop boxes due to fears of spreading or becoming infected with the coronavirus.