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University News

Senior announces mayoral run

Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, January 27, 2011

While his peers were wrapping up their winter breaks and returning to campus, Alex Morse ’11 was kicking off his political career. The urban studies concentrator announced his candidacy for mayor of his hometown, Holyoke, Mass., on Tuesday.

If elected, Morse will be the youngest mayor in Holyoke history and the city’s first openly gay mayor. He will be running against incumbent Elaine Pluta and Daniel Boyle, who ran for mayor in 2009.

Morse said he first became interested in public service at the age of 11 and since then has regularly thought about “how best to give back to the community.”

Morse has worked as a youth career counselor for CareerPoint, which prepares young people to look for employment opportunities. He also founded the city’s first LGBTQ non-profit organization which works to make the city more LGBTQ-friendly  and organizes a yearly youth pride prom. He has been involved in local campaigns such as that of Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts and has been mentored by David Cicilline, former Providence mayor and current congressman.

“Holyoke is missing a bold leader ­­— someone that can solve the problems that face us and start thinking directly,” he said. “We’ve had the same people involved for 10 to 20 years talking about the same ideas and nothing’s going to change.” Morse added that Holyoke has become a struggling urban community and needs a “cheerleader” to restore “pride and hope” in its citizens.

He hired a campaign manager last year and has been working on a grassroots campaign. His focus is on bringing new voices to his campaign, in particular those of Holyoke’s Latino community — more than 40 percent of the city’s 40,000 residents. According to Morse’s website, his campaign will focus on the issues of education, economic development and jobs, public safety and creating community pride.

“I’m hoping to change the conversation in Holyoke politics,” he said. “It’s really a tale of two cities ­— there is the city of people who get opportunities, go to college and get decent jobs, and then there’s the city where there is poverty and people don’t get educated. I want to bridge that gap, make it a place where everyone has equal opportunities.”

Morse made Tuesday’s announcement on the steps of Holyoke City Hall. “We had some snow overnight and weren’t sure how many people would make it, but we had a good crowd,” said Morse.

“It was very well-attended. There were six to 10 local media services, 50 supporters and Alex’s entire family present. There’s a lot of excitement and passion for new leadership,” said Nelson Roman, Morse’s campaign manager. The campaign has raised $10,937 in two months, Roman said. “Three elected officials have firmly announced their support, and we have gotten 150 volunteers although our website only went up in January.”

“There are people that question my age and experience, but I aim to stick to the campaign plan and the issues that matter instead of the things that distract us,” Morse said.

While he works on his campaign, he will continue to take classes to complete his bachelor’s degree. Morse said he is taking three seminars, which all meet on Tuesdays so that he can spend time in Holyoke working on his campaign. He described it as a “complementary experience,” as he can bring the real life experience of living in an urban community to the classroom, while bringing an academic perspective on urban issues back to Holyoke.

Studying urban studies has “provided the education and set of skills to allow me to be a more effective leader in the community,” he said.  

“Alex is very well-informed about urban affairs and has a lot of practical experience for someone his age,” said Hilary Silver, associate professor of sociology, who has taught Morse. “It’s a gamble on his part to go for executive office at such a young age, but if he gets elected, he’ll do a fine job and I wish him the best of luck.”

The preliminary elections will be held Sept. 20 and the top two candidates will then run against each other for the general election Nov. 8.

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