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 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.
Morse suggested the allegations were politically motivated and publicly blamed Neal’s supporters, denouncing what he called “a backroom political smear against this campaign.”
Morse won support from LGBTQ rights groups including MassEquality, which said the accusations fed “into the homophobic trope of gay men as predators.”
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.
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