A Democratic candidate for U.S. House in Massachusetts has apologized after college Democrat groups accused him of using “his platform and taking advantage of his position of power for romantic or sexual gain, specifically toward young students.”
Alex Morse, 31, a four-term mayor of Holyoke, faces off against Rep. Richard Neal, the Democratic incumbent and chair of the House Ways and Means committee, in a Sept. 1 primary.
An email sent Thursday and signed by College Democrats of Massachusetts, U-Mass.-Amherst Democrats, and Amherst College Democrats alleges Morse had “sexual contact” with students at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where he lectured on political science. The three groups disinvited Morse from all future events.
“Numerous incidents over the course of several years have shown that it is no longer appropriate to encourage interaction between College Democrats and Alex Morse,” they wrote.
“We have heard countless stories of Morse adding students to his ‘Close Friends Story’ and Direct Messaging members of College Democrats on Instagram in a way that makes these students feel pressured to respond due to his status,” they wrote. “Even if these scenarios are mutually consensual, the pattern of Morse using his platform and taking advantage of his position of power for romantic or sexual gain, specifically toward young students, is unacceptable.”
In a statement provided to the Daily Collegian Friday evening, Morse admitted to having “consensual adult relationships, including some with college students.” He said he apologized “to anyone I have made feel uncomfortable.”
“I want to be clear that every relationship I’ve had has been consensual. However, I also recognize that I have to be cognizant of my position of power,” Morse said in the statement. “I am committed to meeting with any person or group, including the College Dems, to answer any questions and address any concerns.”
In the statement, Morse detailed the struggles of growing up as a gay man who had not yet come out.
“As I’ve become more comfortable with myself and my sexuality, like any young, single, openly gay man, I have had consensual adult relationships, including some with college students,” Morse said. “Navigating life as both a young gay man and an elected official can be difficult, but that doesn’t excuse poor judgment.”
Morse’s candidacy is backed by the Justice Democrats, the Working Families Party, Indivisible and Sunrise Movement, Andrew Yang, and Jamaal Bowman, who ousted powerful incumbent Rep. Elliot Engel in New York in June.
UMass-Amherst called the allegations “ deeply concerning.” The university said Morse is not currently employed there, but served as an adjunct instructor in urban government and politics, last teaching in 2019. It said it has no plans to rehire Morse.