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Pittsfield Mayor Endorses Harrington Over Incumbent For DA

Josh Landes
Candidate Andrea Harrington and Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer at the Harrington campaign headquaters Wednesday.

Pittsfield, Massachusetts Mayor Linda Tyer has become the biggest name in Berkshire County politics to make an endorsement in the district attorney race. WAMC reports Tyer backed Andrea Harrington today.

Beneath a campaign banner and in front of a wall of Harrington supporters holding signs, Tyer said she’s taking a stand in the Democratic primary for Berkshire District Attorney.

“On Tuesday, September 4th, I will be voting for Andrea Harrington to be our next district attorney,” said the mayor.

She said that she shares “similar values” with Harrington.

“We both believe in creating opportunities for social justice and for thinking differently about entrenched problems,” said Tyer.

The mayor also said that she and the attorney from Great Barrington value “diversity of thought, opinion, and professional experience” to inform their decisions as leaders.

“I especially admire Andrea’s plan to create a citizens advisory committee,” she added.

The first-term mayor is currently attempting to establish a citizens advisory committee for the Pittsfield Police Department, but not without criticism — including some from NAACP Berkshire Branch President Dennis Powell, who was at the announcement holding a Harrington sign behind the mayor.

Tyer tied Harrington’s progressive platform and insistence on the power of data into her own goals and accomplishments.

“I have worked diligently to move Pittsfield into the future," she said. "For example, by modernizing city government and our economic development strategies. Andrea will bring the same approach to the DA’s office by employing modern evidence based methods to combat crime.”

Harrington called Tyer’s leadership of the city an “inspiration.”

“She has broken with the go-along-to-get-along politics that have prevented progress and reform, and I will do the exact same thing as your next district attorney,” said Harrington of the mayor.

Tyer didn’t offer a specific reason for her choice to endorse Harrington so close to primary day, but said she had been observing the campaign and was moved to declare her support.

The mayor was asked how she would handle working with a different DA should Harrington lose.

“When the dust settles, we have to come together and do the next right thing for the people that we represent," she responded. "So I will extend my hand to whoever the successful candidate it. It’s going to be Andrea Harrington, but whoever that is, I will extend to them and hope that that hand is extended back to me.”

In response to a question about how Harrington differed from rival and fellow self-identified progressive Judith Knight, Tyer praised her “broad based grassroots campaign” and “diverse set of experiences.”

Knight challenged that assertion in an interview with WAMC later Wednesday, noting that her experience in progressive politics goes back to her campaign against then-DA David Capeless in 2006.

“The mayor is grabbing at straws there," she told WAMC. "If the mayor is really in favor of progressive reform, and there isn’t some other agenda being run here, then I’m the obvious candidate.”

The third candidate, incumbent DA Paul Caccaviello, was endorsed by the Pittsfield Police Officers Union in a letter to the Berkshire Eagle in July.

“I believe that the Pittsfield Police Department knows that I stand with them in the efforts that they are undertaking now to keep our city safe," said Tyer. "In fact, some of the things that Andrea’s been talking about, we’ve already deployed in our police department.”

Tyer cited cultural competency and implicit bias training — a move that Caccaviello has undertaken in his own office.

“I think there has been a response in the DA’s office to some of those ideas that have been articulated by Andrea," said the mayor. "I welcome that and I’m glad that it’s happening, but I think that Andrea has the right tenacity to ensure that it’s consistent and sustainable.”

“I think it’s a great concept, that’s why we undertook it and completed it. And I continue to look forward to having a sustained relationship with outside agencies for that purpose," said Caccaviello. “Politics aside, I look forward to continuing to work and put my experience to work collaboratively with elected officials, law enforcement, and community leaders as we address the public safety concerns of Berkshire County.”

“This doesn’t surprise me, and actually I’ve know that this is coming for months," said Knight. She told WAMC that the endorsement made no impact on her campaign, and questioned claims of Harrington’s progressive credentials. Knight noted that unlike her, Harrington wasn’t at the Pittsfield City Council meeting on the mayor’s citizen advisory committee proposal.

"I would be happy to draft the law," said the candidate, "because the one that’s been submitted to the Pittsfield council is weak and ineffective and will do nothing to change things.”

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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