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Briefings: Morse Campaign 4.0 Launches in Holyoke…

Mayor Alex Morse as his kickoff Monday night. (WMassP&I)

HOLYOKE—Surrounded by many of the supporters he has accumulated over six years in office, Alex Morse kicked off his third reelection bid as mayor here. In the banquet hall of the Delaney House, he laid out some of his accomplishments and reiterated the optimism about Holyoke, the keystone of his mayoralty and four campaigns.

The crowd let out an uproarious cheer when Morse reminded them the person elected in November would serve a four-year term. Nonetheless, the kickoff seemed a bit less tense than Morse’s prior campaign events. It is not that no minefields lay between now and November. However, there is a sense here that the scorched-earth atmosphere of some Holyoke political season has yet to take hold.

“I’ve rejected the notion that our best days are behind us,” Morse said, harkening back to his first bid in 2011. His opponents, he said, “often try to tear our city down” to win.

Overall his remarks Monday night were short and even low-key. Morse thanked his family and listed off pols and honored guests in attendance. He described progress on crime and even the city’s beleaguered school system—the dropout rate—which remains in state receivership.

Morseland for four more years? (WMassP&I)

Pointing to economic investments across the city, he observed an increase in newcomers and businesses coming to Holyoke.

“Initially, you might get a couple of side eyes or rolled eyes,” Morse said of those thinking of relocating here. Now the idea prompts a reduced amount of skepticism.

At 28 and already in his third-term as mayor, Morse can bring the fire to campaign events. There was plenty of energy. Still, a calm confidence, not complacency, prevailed. Supporters were gearing up for another cycle, but, to their relief, none of Morse’s opponents have begun lobbing bombs so far as others have during the last two cycles.

Holyoke Fire Fighters rallied outside Morse’s kickoff. (via Twitter/Local1693)

Some firefighters were demonstrating just off Route 5 outside the Delaney House. Their union and the mayor have locked horns over the budget, but the protest did not affect the event inside.

Morse’s likeliest foe in November, former city councilor Jason Ferreira, announces his campaign Wednesday. But unlike challengers in prior elections, Ferreira has not been stoking anti-Morse hysteria. Things could change. The two have their differences, which will manifest as the campaign progresses. Though, they do agree on some city policy matters.

However the campaign progresses, Morse can already lay claim to one important legacy. He alluded to it in his remarks. Public participation in the city has risen over the past six years. More voters turnout, interest in open seats on boards and commissions has risen and more speakers appear at Council meetings.

“One of the things that compelled us to get involved six year ago was we wanted to feel we like we were part of this community,” Morse said. “That no one neighborhood or no one family or no one group of people had ownership of the political process in the city.”

Whether because Morse supporters have followed his lead, his critics’ have galvanized their opposition or neutral parties have just become more interested, residents are making a civic investment.

As Morse and his supporters know well, that also boosts attention and unpredictability in each election cycle. Of course, if successful, a four-year term means such concerns will be off the board for at least a while.