Alex Morse Defeated in Congressional Primary After “Homophobic Attack”

Efforts to weaponize his sexual orientation "certainly influenced the outcome of this race," says the LGBTQ Victory Fund.

Openly gay congressional hopeful Alex Morse has lost his primary race, and a leading LGBTQ advocacy group believes a homophobic smear campaign played a role in his defeat.

Morse, the longtime mayor of Holyoke, Massachusetts, ran for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. He was defeated at the polls this Tuesday, September 1.

Pat Greenhouse/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
Alex Morse.

Morse’s primary race was already an uphill battle: As NewNowNext previously reported, the 31-year-old Democrat challenged Rep. Richard Neal, an influential Dem who has served Massachusetts’s 1st congressional district since 2013. He also ran on a progressive policy platform and refused donations from corporate PACs.

His campaign took an unexpected hit when the College Democrats at UMass Amherst—where Morse formerly lectured—went public with vague accusations of sexual misconduct.

The group’s allegations were published in the college newspaper on Friday, August 7, just weeks before Morse’s primary election. None of the students who felt Morse had used “his position of power for romantic or sexual gain” were named.

The LGBTQ Victory Fund, a group that helps queer candidates get elected nationwide, stood by its endorsement of Morse after the allegations went public. The plot thickened further come Wednesday, August 12, when reporting from The Intercept revealed an orchestrated plot by the College Democrats to sink Morse’s campaign.

In a statement responding to Morse’s loss, Annise Parker, president and CEO of the Victory Fund, described the accusations as “efforts to sensationalize and weaponize Alex’s sexual orientation”:

The efforts to sensationalize and weaponize Alex’s sexual orientation certainly influenced the outcome of this race, but the backlash it engendered should give pause to those considering similar tactics in the future. We are grateful Alex stayed in the race and took the body blows necessary to expose the double standards too often placed on LGBTQ candidates. … LGBTQ candidates are facing a growing number of homophobic and transphobic attacks this year and whether they succeed or fail will set an important precedent for the future. While Alex’s loss is disappointing, it proved our community and our allies can respond forcefully in exposing the dog whistles and stereotypes that too often haunt LGBTQ candidates. We will not allow attacks on LGBTQ candidates to go unanswered during the final two months of this election cycle.

We endorsed Alex for the U.S. Congress because diverse representation in elected office is essential to inclusive policies and legislation. When LGBTQ people are in the halls of power, it influences the debates, changes hearts and minds, and advances equality for our community. We still have an opportunity to double the number of LGBTQ members of the U.S. House this year—and we are ready to help make that happen.

Additionally, the Justice Democrats, a progressive group that also backed Morse, issued a statement commending him for running.

“Taking on [Rep. Richard Neal] was always going to be our biggest battle. He’s the number one recipient of corporate PAC donations in all of Congress and wields an enormous amount of power over elected officials, labor unions, and community organizations as Ways and Means Chair,” said Alexandra Rojas, the group’s executive director. “While Neal walks away damaged and vulnerable, Alex Morse emerges as an inspiration for his community who overcame a culture of fear instilled by the incumbent and desperate, manufactured attacks.”

Brooklyn-based writer and editor. Probably drinking iced coffee or getting tattooed.
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