As the University of Massachusetts begins its investigation into congressional candidate Alex Morse over allegations that he used his position to foster inappropriate relationships with students, the Holyoke mayor issued a statement Sunday night saying he will continue his campaign in the First District.
Morse, 31, who is running against longtime incumbent US Representative Richard Neal, vehemently denied using his “position of power” as mayor and an adjunct instructor at UMass Amherst for “romantic or sexual gain,” but noted that he recognized “some students felt uncomfortable with interactions they had with me.”
“I am sorry for that,” Morse wrote in the statement, which was posted on Twitter. “This is unacceptable behavior for anyone with institutional power.”
The university announced Saturday that it is launching an investigation to determine whether Morse violated university policy or federal Title IX law during his time as an adjunct professor.
The allegations surfaced following a report published Friday by the Massachusetts Daily Collegian, where it was revealed that student Democratic activists had notified Morse on Thursday that he would no longer be welcome at events hosted by the College Democrats of Massachusetts, UMass Amherst Democrats, or the Amherst College Democrats.
In the letter, Morse is accused of having sexual contact with college students and using dating apps to match with students. The letter also alleges Morse took advantage of events hosted by College Democrats to add students to his Instagram account and contact them.
Morse, one of the state’s first openly gay mayors, was first elected mayor of his hometown in 2011 at age 22. He is now in his fourth term as mayor of Holyoke.
In his statement Sunday night, Morse also said that he is “releasing any endorsers who feel it is in their interest to no longer support my campaign.”
“While I am staying in the race, I also fully understand that some of my supporters and endorsers have legitimate concerns about these allegations, and I understand if they feel the need to rescind their support,” he wrote.
However, Morse said he believes the university’s investigation will clear him of any “unethical conduct.” He also noted the “unfortunate” timing of the allegations as the Sept. 1 primary nears, “because there isn’t enough time for UMass to conduct an independent review before the people of this district vote.”
The First District covers a large swath of Western Massachusetts, including Springfield, Holyoke, and Pittsfield.
Kate Norton, a spokesperson for the Neal campaign, declined to comment Sunday night.
Morse and Neal are scheduled to meet on the debate stage Aug. 17.