Alex Morse, the 31-year-old gay four-term Democratic mayor of Holyoke, Massachusetts who is running for Congress, says he’s staying in the race after admitting to having consensual sex with college students and apologizing late last week to “anyone I have made feel uncomfortable.”
As Towleroad’s John Wright reported last Friday, Morse has been responding “to a letter from college Democratic groups in the state, accusing him of using ‘his position of power for romantic or sexual gain,’ according to the Massachusetts Daily Collegian. The groups alleged that Morse had sexual relations with students at UMass Amherst, where he is a lecturer in the department of political science, as well from other schools in the Five College Consortium, during his campaign. They accused him of meeting students as young as 18 on dating apps such as Tinder and Grindr. He also connected with them on Instagram, adding them to his “Close Friends” story and direct-messaging them, which made some of them feel uncomfortable.
Morse made the announcement he’s staying in the race in a lengthy statement published to social media late Sunday night.
“I want to be very clear about this,” wrote Morse. “I have never, in my entire life, had a non-consensual sexual encounter with anyone. I have never used my position of power as Mayor and UMass lecturer for romantic or sexual gain, or to take advantage of students. I have never violated UMass policy. Any claim to the contrary is false. As I’ve acknowledged, I have had consensual relationships with other men, including students enrolled at local universities that I’ve met using dating apps. While I am confident that a full investigation into these matters will clear my name completely of any unethical conduct, I also recognize that some students felt uncomfortable with interactions they had with me. I am sorry for that.”
“It is unfortunate that these allegations came three weeks before the primary, because there isn’t enough time for UMass to conduct an independent review,” Morse added.
Morse also spoke directly to members of the LGBTQ community that have contacted him about the allegations.
“To the many members of the queer community that have reached out to me in recent days, it’s clear that many of you feel that these recent events, and the language used in response, aren’t just an attack on me, but on all of us,” Morse continued. “You’re genuinely outraged, as I am, by the invocation of age-old gay stereotypes. You have reminded me that we’ve come too far to turn back. I want my freedom, and I want you to have yours, too.”
“I continue this campaign mindful of the fact that my personal life — and my consensual sexual activity — will be subject to scrutiny and fixation that are all too familiar to other members of the LGBTQ community,” Morse added. “I am also mindful of the fact that there are people holding onto power today who themselves have acted in dishonorable ways in their personal lives. I say this not to shirk responsibility for having made anyone uncomfortable. I am simply highlighting the fact that I am being held to a different standard, one deeply connected to a history of surveilling the sex lives of people like me.”
Read Morse’s full statement below.