Congressman Richard Neal of Springfield, Massachusetts, said the 2020 Democratic primary will be as much about his challenger, Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, as it will be about himself.
Neal made his first public comments since Morse joined the race on Monday in Pittsfield.
When asked about facing Morse next year, Neal didn't hesitate to go on the attack.
"Well, I noticed he didn't mention that the Holyoke schools are in receivership," Neal said. "And that in the three years before it fell into receivership during his tenure as mayor, he didn't bother to go to 28 out of 60 school committee meetings."
The state deemed the school system as chronically under-performing, and took over the district in 2015.
In a statement, Morse touted progress made in the Holyoke schools, but didn't directly mention the state takeover.
"I'm proud of the progress the Holyoke Public Schools have made throughout my time as Mayor," Morse said. "When I took office, only 49 percent of our students were graduating from high school. Today, over 72 percent of our students are graduating from high school."
Neal chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, and has been in Congress for three decades.
Morse became Holyoke's mayor in 2012. At the time, he was the youngest and first openly-gay mayor in the city's history.