Mayor denies misconduct allegations; continuing Congress run

HOLYOKE, Mass. (AP) — A Massachusetts state university is investigating a mayor and adjunct lecturer who was accused of sexual misconduct as he runs for Congress.

Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse said in a statement Sunday night he denies the allegations and will continue his congressional run.

Morse said he has never had a "non-consensual sexual encounter with anyone” and never used his positions as mayor or as an adjunct lecturer at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst for "romantic or sexual gain, or to take advantage of students.”

Student Democrats in Massachusetts accused him of having sexual contact with students and seeking them out on dating apps and social media.

They said they notified Morse last week he would no longer be welcome at events hosted by the College Democrats of Massachusetts, UMass Amherst Democrats or the Amherst College Democrats.

The university, in response, said Saturday it had launched an investigation into allegations Morse had used his position at the university to foster inappropriate relationships with students over the course of several years.

Morse has acknowledged having “consensual adult relationships" with college students and apologized to "anyone I have made feel uncomfortable.”

He said Sunday he expects a full investigation will clear his name, but said it was “unfortunate” it likely won't be resolved before voters head to the polls on Sept. 1.

The 31-year-old Democrat is challenging U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, a fellow Democrat who chairs the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, for the state’s First Congressional District seat that covers a swath of western Massachusetts. The state’s primary election is Sept. 1.

Neal’s campaign declined to comment Monday.

Morse has been a rising star in Massachusetts politics. He was elected in 2011 as one of the state’s first openly gay mayors and also one of its youngest. Morse was elected mayor of his hometown at the age of 22 and after graduating from Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.