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'It Is Political': Progressive Challenger Alex Morse Rips Rep. Richard Neal for Inaction on Opioid Crisis

"It's easy to say that addiction and loss aren't political when you haven't experienced them personally, or when you have the money to afford the best treatment options."

Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse and his late brother Doug are pictured in a photo posted after Doug's death from an overdose. (Photo: Alex Morse for Congress/Facebook)

Rep. Richard Neal's progressive primary challenger Alex Morse fired back Thursday afternoon after the congressman's campaign dismissed an ad from the Holyoke mayor about his brother's overdose that tied the incumbent to the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries.

"People are dying in the streets, and Richard Neal wants to tell us how and when we can talk about it? They're our stories, not his," Morse said in a statement. "He doesn't get to tell us how to tell them, and how to grieve."

In the 30-second spot, the Holyoke mayor talks about the death of his brother, Doug, in February after a two-decade fight with addiction. 

"Doug was a good man," Morse says, "but he fell through the cracks of our broken and cruel healthcare system."

Morse hammers Neal for his closeness to the healthcare industry and antipathy to Medicare for All, showing news articles covering the congressman's work in October 2019 against legislation lowering drug prices and his donations from corporate PACs.

"In Washington, instead of standing up for patients, Richie Neal is using his power and seniority to fight for the same drug companies that are fueling this crisis," says Morse.

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Neal's team fired back, telling the Boston Globe that the use of Morse's brother in the ad was distasteful.

"Addiction and loss are not political footballs and invoking the loss of a family member in an attack full of lies is despicable and appalling," said spokesperson Kate Norton.

Common Dreams reached out to Norton for details on what in the ad was untrue. At press time, Norton had not returned request for comment.

In his statement, Morse took issue with the Neal campaign defining what was and was not political about his brother's death. 

"It was political every time Neal blocked efforts to reform the healthcare system that made it so hard for my brother to get treatment," the mayor said. "Battling addiction is hard enough, no one should have to battle health insurance companies at the same time. But for the last 20 years of my brother's life, that's what we went through."

"They think this is a game," Morse added. "For me it's real life, and real people. Overdoses are surging in the district, people are dying, and he has failed us."

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