In Final Meeting, Berkshire DA Candidates Talk Term Limits, Primaries
In their last public meeting of a long and bruising campaign, the three candidates in next week’s Democratic primary for Berkshire District Attorney met in Stockbridge, Massachusetts for a live debate on WAMC Tuesday.
The Berkshire Theatre Group’s Fitzpatrick Main Stage was a fittingly dramatic setting for the ending of a hard fought campaign. DA Paul Caccaviello and attorneys Andrea Harrington and Judith Knight debated on the set of the last production of theatre group’s 90th season.
The candidates were asked who they would be voting for in the gubernatorial and congressional primaries. Caccaviello, describing himself as a “independent political thinker,” said he hadn’t made up his mind yet in either race.
“I will be voting for Jay Gonzalez," said Harrington.
Knight also said she’d be supporting Gonzalez, and was the only candidate to also take a stand in the primary for the first House district, opting to support Springfield civil rights attorney Tahirah Amatul-Wadud over 29-year incumbent Congressman Richard Neal.
“I like her ideas, I’ve spoken with her personally," said Knight. "I like what I see in her and hear in her so I’ll be voting for her.”
The candidates were asked if they would set self-imposed term limits. Caccaviello said he hadn’t considered the question before.
“Frankly it seems to me it should be the voters’ choice," said the DA. "If there’s going to be about accountability, it should be up to the voters. If they decide after one term, two terms, three terms — keep going — that you’re not doing the job, then that’s their prerogative and that’s their option.”
“If I’m elected, I know I would want to stay at least two terms, maybe three," said Knight. “It’s up to the legislature to make decisions as to whether or not there should be term limits for the district attorney’s office.”
“Building a modern district attorney’s office is going to bring us into the future. It’s an ambitious goal. I think that two or three terms would be an appropriate length of time in order to accomplish that goal," said Harrington. Charging the current office with “calcification,” she turned the lens back on the incumbent DA and the manner in which he was installed into the role by departing former DA David Capeless and Governor Charlie Baker’s office in March.
“And when you talk about district attorney’s office being political," said Harrington, "I mean — we’ve seen just the way this race started. It started with an effort really to keep the power within the same group of people. And I don’t think it’s healthy for democracy, I don’t think It’s been healthy for the district attorney’s office.”
“Look, I realize Miss Harrington, you may not want me in this race, but I’m in this race, OK?" responded Caccaviello. He said it was impossible to stay stagnant in the job and do it well.
“That’s spoken by someone who has never done this work," he said before turning to how he came into the role. “Stability and continuity in a public safety office, that is paramount. I’m not running on five months of having the title of district attorney, I’m running on 30 years of service.”
Knight used her closing remarks to attack the experience of both her rivals.
“Paul, you are a prosecutor for 28 years, you’ve only been in the district attorney’s office so you know what you know, but you haven’t seen out beyond what’s happening outside of Berkshire County," she said.
"Andrea, you have so little criminal law experience that you don’t even know what you don’t know, and that’s dangerous —” said Knight, as her supporters cheered.
“Please hold your applause folks," interjected WAMC News Director and panelist Ian Pickus.
“No,” said Harrington.
“That’s dangerous for the district attorney’s office," said Knight.
“That is not true," responded Harrington.
“It is absolutely true,” Knight said.
“That is a misrepresentation,” continued Harrington.
“You’ve never tried cases in superior court,” Knight said back.
“That is you misrepresenting my experience-” said Harrington.
“Folks, we’re short on time, please,” said Pickus to the candidates.
“-and I’m not going to put up with it,” finished Harrington.
The primary is September 4th.
Hear the full debate below: