Rep. Richard Neal, challenger Alex Morse to face off in Aug. 17 debate

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U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Springfield, and his challenger in the Sept. 1 Democratic primary, Holyoke Mayor Alex B. Morse, will meet in a debate set for Aug. 17 to be broadcast on New England Public Media WGBY TV.

The debate is being organized by a consortium of media organizations, including The Republican and MassLive, New England Public Media and The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield.

The face-off comes two weeks prior to the primary for the 1st Congressional District seat that Neal has held for more than 30 years.

Due to social-distancing requirements as outlined by the state, there will be no live studio audience for the event, according to producer Tony Dunne, of New England Public Media.

The hour-long debate will be moderated by Ray Hershel, retired from a 50-year commercial TV news career and now a contributor to New England Public Media’s “The State We’re In.” The panel of questioners will include representatives of The Republican/MassLive and The Eagle.

Each media organization will be soliciting questions from viewers and readers on topics of concern to residents of the 1st Congressional District. The district, with its lines redrawn after the 2010 census, covers 87 communities in five counties. Geographically, it is the largest district in the state.

Neal, a former mayor of Springfield, was first elected to Congress in 1988. He most recently defeated Democrat Tahirah Amatul-Wadud by 40 percent of the vote in 2018. In December 2018 House Democrats voted to name Neal chairman of the powerful Ways & Means Committee.

Morse, first elected at the age of 22, has been mayor of Holyoke since 2012. He was the youngest and first openly gay mayor in the city’s history. This marks his first campaign for elective office outside of Holyoke.

Along with being broadcast on WGBY and NEPR 88.5FM, the debate is expected to be streamed online on the MassLive and Eagle websites. Both WAMC in Albany, New York, and WGBH in Boston have also expressed interest in broadcasting the debate.

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