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Questions Swirl Around DA Caccaviello’s Write-In Campaign

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Josh Landes
/
WAMC

News that the Berkshire District Attorney will attempt to hold his seat in November’s general election after losing the Democratic primary raises a host of new questions. 

Two weeks after the conclusion of one of the hardest-fought races in county history, DA Paul Caccaviello — who lost by around 700 votes to self-described progressive attorney Andrea Harrington — made it clear that he wasn’t finished.

“I have to answer the call that I’m hearing from so many people throughout Berkshire County to stay in this race for district attorney,” Caccaviello told WAMC.

It will take the form of a write-in campaign, with less than two months until the November 6th election. Caccaviello’s bid is complicated by a number of factors — though spelling his 11-letter name and address correctly will not be one of them. The Massachusetts Secretary of State’s website says the requirement for a write-in vote is that it can “reasonably be determined” to reflect the candidate. Other concerns loom larger. For one, convincing voters to perform the extra step of actually writing in a name.

“Historically, write-in campaigns are not easy. This is why we often times point to party ID as being a key thing that voters vote on, it’s much easier for a voter to say, oh, ‘I’m a Republican, as I’m going to vote for the person with the R next to the name, I’m a Democrat, I’m going to vote for that person,'" said Samantha Pettey, Assistant Professor of Political Science at the Massachusetts College Of Liberal Arts in North Adams.

She says the next encumbrance is the fact that the campaign will call on voters to reengage with a campaign that effectively ended once already.

“Political scientists talk about voter fatigue all the time, that we have way too many elections in the United States and this is why we have low turnout in the United States,” Pettey told WAMC.

The November election is a midterm election, without the draw of a presidential contest, and it follows an exhausting primary that saw higher-than-average voter turnout in the Berkshires. But Pettey says Caccaviello’s second attempt raises questions about democracy itself.

“A lot of people see the primary system as — this is giving the opportunities for the voters to pick who they want for the ballot, so some people see it as going against what the voters want,” she said.

Still, the lack of a Republican opponent to Harrington in the general means there is a chance for Caccaviello to represent a different voting populace.

“Republicans and maybe unenrolleds who didn’t vote in the Democratic primary have the opportunity to theoretically vote for Paul now instead of Andrea,” Pattey explained.

Caccaviello has described himself as a “independent political thinker,” and was an unenrolled voter until registering as Democrat in February, a month before his former boss DA David Capeless resigned the office after ensuring Caccaviello’s appointment with the office of Republican Governor Charlie Baker.

Then there’s the question of the almost 5,200 voters who supported the third candidate, another self-described progressive, Judith Knight. In an article published by The Intercept Thursday, the attorney affirmed her stance against Harrington and appeared to contradict a pledge she made to WAMC during the campaign about refusing taking a position under a Caccaviello DA office. WAMC reached Knight for clarification Thursday.

“So what I said in August when Andrea asked me to make some pledge about not being in that office, no interest in being in the office in its current form, at all, the way it does things,” she said.

However, Knight says her ultimate goal is to see progressive change come to the office in one form or another. She says while no offer from Caccaviello exists, she isn’t ruling anything out at this point.

“For me, I want those changes to happen in Berkshire County," said Knight. "We need to be updated here. I’m passionate about them. If that were to come to be and that were the direction the office was going in, yes, maybe.”

One thing hasn’t changed. Knight hasn’t warmed to Harrington since the combative primary, and maintains her fellow progressive isn’t capable of handling the role.

“She doesn’t have the experience. That’s my issue with her, that’s it, that’s nothing more nothing less than that," she told WAMC. "We have five murder trials on the January trial list. That would be when the new DA gets sworn in, whether it’s Paul or Andrea. Those are five families that lost a loved one.”

For her part, Harrington released a statement saying that she is “incredibly proud to be the Democratic nominee for Berkshire County District Attorney,” and that the vote represents “Berkshire County residents [wanting] a new direction in the justice system.” She added, “voters put their trust in [her] vision and experience, and [she] looks forward to fighting each and every day to make our region a safer and healthier place to live."

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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