Political Action Committee Welcomes Holyoke Mayor to Campus


Alex Morse, current Mayor of Holyoke and congressional candidate, visited Williston to talk with students and constituents, speaking about his life’s story and political tenure. 

Mayor Morse was invited by Williston’s Political Action Committee to speak as part of his campaign across Massachusetts’ first district in his bid to become a congressman. He would be the first new representative in the district in over 30 years. Held in the middle school on Thursday, January 16, Morse was greeted by about 30 people. While most of the crowd were Williston students and faculty, there were a handful of local constituents as well.  

Morse talked for an hour about his personal and political journey, detailing his path into the political sphere. Morse grew up in Holyoke in a family that was not very political, other than voting regularly. In high school he came out as homosexual to his family and friends, who responded with support.  

While at Holyoke High School, he started to get into politics, he said. He started the Gay Straight Alliance there and worked with a program to write a bill focused on mental illness with other teens who lived in vulnerable communities.  

Through that process he learned about government and its inner workings. After high school, Morse felt he was politically experienced, and went off to Brown University as a first-generation college student.  

Before the end of his time at Brown, Morse was running for mayor of Holyoke. He was 21, and so naturally there were those who doubted his legitimacy. Fortunately for him, it worked out; he won both the preliminary election (by only one vote) and the general election for mayor, a position which he has held for the past eight years, since November 2011. 

Morse felt he was more than just a candidate looking to create small change, he wanted to come in and disrupt the existing system. 

“I wasn’t running against a person,” Morse noted. “I was running against a much larger structure and system…things had the same or gotten worse year after year.” 

Gabriel Davila Bustamante ’21 is the head of Williston’s Political Awareness Club and was the catalyst behind making this event happen. He reached out to Morse late last October by emailing his campaign and then went through the campaigns chain of command until the date was set.  

Gabriel said that the crowd was the size he was anticipating, and that he was pleased with how the event went.  

“It was nice to see some people from Easthampton come in for the event, Gabriel stated.

Gabriel said he supports Morse and that he looks forward to volunteering for his congressional campaign. 

Ruby McElhone Yates ’21 is the head of Williston’s High School Democrats and was at the event as well. She went because she is interested in the race for district one, and in the past she has volunteered for campaigns opposing incumbent Congressman Richard Neal. 

“I went to the Morse event because I am interested in his campaign,” Ruby remarked. “He is young and progressive and challenging an incumbent who does have a lot of power in congress.” 

Ruby was hoping to feel the same energy and excitement that she had seen volunteering for the last challenger to Neal, Tahirah Amatul-WadudShe also was impressed with how Morse was really spending time in the district, which is geographically the largest in Massachusetts; Neal has been criticized for his lack of time spent traveling his district.  

I appreciate his focus on spending time in the area,” Ruby said. “This district is geographically really big.”  

Ruby said overall she was pleased with what Morse said. She said his values and ideas are the kind she looks for in a candidate.  

“I liked what he was saying,” Ruby commented. “Most of what he is campaigning on seems to be the same progressive ideas of a lot of other politicians  [and candidates] in the presidential campaign … which I think is an asset.” 

She also added that she was impressed with Williston students and the questions they asked Morse. 

“I thought the questions asked, especially by students, were really good and were not easy to answer,” she said.

Questions were asked about climate change and other hot button issues such as lowering the voting age to 16 (which Morse supports) or compulsory voting (which he does not).  

Morse tagged on at the end of answering a climate change question from a Williston student that climate change doesn’t end at the boarders of Holyoke.” 

Ruby’s sole critique of Morse’s performance at the event was that she wishes there was a little more specificity with the plans of the campaign. 

I appreciated his emphasis on turning out more voters,” Ruby maintained, “but wish he was a bit more specific about what his campaigns plans are and what he wants to get done.” 

Ruby was satisfied with the event and happy Williston was able to connect with local candidates and get involved politically.  

It was nice to see things the school has done to connect with the campaign,” said Ruby.