Young Mayor's Political Rise Runs Into Controversy

Alex Morse remains in congressional race after allegations of inappropriate relationships
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 10, 2020 10:25 AM CDT
Young Mayor's Political Rise Runs Into Controversy
A file photo of Holyoke, Mass., Mayor Alex Morse.   (Don Treeger/The Republican via AP, File)

A rising progressive politician trying to pull off a congressional upset is suddenly caught up in a controversy that might derail his plans. The politician is 31-year-old Alex Morse, the mayor of Holyoke, Massachusetts, and the youngest openly gay mayor in the country, reports the Washington Post. In addition to serving as mayor—he was first elected at age 22—Morse was an adjunct professor at the University of Massachusetts from 2014 to 2019. Now the university is investigating allegations that Morse abused his position by having inappropriate sexual relationships with male college students and made others uncomfortable through interactions on social media, reports the Boston Globe. The allegations came to light in the Daily Collegian, which reported on complaints lodged by the student organization the College Democrats of Massachusetts.

On Sunday night, Morse issued a lengthy statement on Twitter in which he strongly denied the central part of the allegations and emphasized that all of his relationships have been consensual. "I have never used my position of power as Mayor and UMass lecturer for romantic or sexual gain," he wrote, adding that he's certain the university investigation will clear him of any ethical wrongdoing. However, he acknowledged that some of the students he engaged with felt uncomfortable with their interactions. “I am sorry for that,” Morse wrote. “This is unacceptable behavior for anyone with institutional power.” Morse wrote that he is staying in the congressional race, suggesting that he was the victim of the "invocation of age-old anti-gay stereotype." He is trying to unseat longtime Democratic incumbent Rep. Richard Neal in next month's primary. (More Holyoke stories.)

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