Alex Morse will serve the people of Western Mass.

  • SATYA JOHNSON

Published: 7/30/2020 2:24:26 PM

On Sept. 1 of this year, voters across Massachusetts’ First Congressional District will decide who to nominate as their U.S. Representative: Richard Neal, or Alex Morse, the mayor of Holyoke.

In 1988 the Democratic longtime incumbent Edward Boland retired from office after 18 terms, having previously informed Neal of his plan to do so. With this head start, Neal ran to replace Boland, and won easily, without opposition in the Democratic primary. Fifteen times since then, every two years, we have chosen him to represent us in Washington, during which time he has steadily gained power, becoming the chair of the Ways and Means committee as recently as January 2019.

Alex Morse was born in 1989, a year after Neal was elected. He went to public school and then Brown University where he became the first member of his family to earn a college degree. Morse announced his candidacy for mayor while still a senior, and was elected at 22 years of age, unseating incumbent Elaine Pluta.

During Morse’s tenure as mayor, according to his campaign, the high school graduation rate rose from 49% to 72%, the unemployment rate fell from 13% to 5% before the COVID-19 pandemic, and the city saw a 40% decrease in crime. Millions of dollars of private and public money have been invested in renewable energy and infrastructure, and Morse closed the last coal plant in the state, replacing it with the largest solar farm; 92% of Holyoke’s energy is now clean and renewable.

In contrast, Richard Neal is the only congressperson from Massachusetts who does not support bold action to combat climate change. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, Springfield (Neal’s main district office) is the No. 1 asthma capital of the U.S., and environmental legislation like the Green New Deal would drastically improve this by reducing pollution. But Neal calls natural gas a bridge fuel and says that the Green New Deal is too expensive while accepting large campaign donations from the fossil fuel industry.

The Ways and Means Committee has jurisdiction over Medicare. However, Neal has refused to support Medicare For All, and has instead used his power to stop in their tracks bills that would end surprise medical billing and lower drug prices. And so it’s no surprise to learn that he is taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from pharmaceutical companies and PACs.

The two candidates’ most recent report to the Federal Election Commission shows that almost 85% of Rep. Richard Neal’s second-quarter donations came from corporate and trade association PACs. The vast majority of Alex Morse’s donations came instead from individuals, 95% of which were less than $200. Neal is beholden to his corporate sponsors, not the interests of his constituents who could clearly benefit from healthcare coverage through Medicare for All, or the reduction of pollution and creation of jobs with a Green New Deal.

I am promoting a candidate in large part because at age 16 I cannot vote. The future of our country will impact me more than it will impact an adult who has less years to live; and it is very probable that it will be my generation, not my parents' and certainly not my grandparents', who will feel the terrible consequences of our delay to action on climate change. But I cannot vote. And so if I want to make an impact politically, I must persuade others to vote in ways that will improve the future of our country.

Early voting is the week of Aug. 22 and mail-in voting begins Aug. 1.  Applications for a mail-in ballot can be obtained from Secretary Galvin’s website.

Please vote for Alex Morse, who will serve the people of Western Mass.

Satya Johnson, 16, is resident of Heath.

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