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Berkshire DA Election Marks A Major Shift

Josh Landes
Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer with Andrea Harrington in August.

Fresh faces in Berkshire County politics played a significant role in Andrea Harrington’s definitive victory in Tuesday’s general election for District Attorney. WAMC reports on the people who helped steer Harrington through a bruising Democratic primary and a write-in challenge in the general.

Harrington’s victory makes her the first woman to serve as DA in Berkshire County. It also marks a jarring break in the office’s leadership dating back to the early 90s. The late Gerald Downing held the seat from 1991 until his death in 2004, when David Capeless – then an Assistant DA – was appointed to the role. Capeless’s March appointment of his longtime First Assistant Paul Caccaviello would have continued that trend – a dynamic that some Harrington backers opposed.

“I have been involved in the Democratic Party in Berkshire County for a very long time, and it seemed to be stuck in a time warp where the old values of the Democratic Party were stagnated," said Harrington campaign volunteer Greg Yon. He's the husband of former Pittsfield City Councilor Christine Yon and the former acting director of maintenance for the city.

“And now, Andrea Harrington, with the new progressive Democrats — bringing together the liberal Democrats and the moderate Democrats – which I am – together to form one new Democratic Party for Berkshire County,” continued Yon.

Some of that sense of newness came from Harrington’s core staff, including Pittsfield City Councilor Helen Moon, who served as the campaign manager through both the primary and the general election. She spoke with WAMC Tuesday night at the Harrington victory party.

“We started our campaigning for the primaries," Moon told WAMC. "We had no idea that we would have such a high turnout, and we were actually caught off guard a little bit with how many people came to vote, which was fantastic, it was great.”

Moon – who has been representing Pittsfield’s Ward One since January – explained how the roughly 700-vote primary victory over Caccaviello impacted the campaign’s route to Tuesday’s win.

“Going into the general, we expected higher turnout, and we tried to blanket central, north, and south county with Andrea’s message by phone banking, by canvassing, really trying to have conversations with voters about why this is important and why they should vote,” said Moon.

She attributed the protracted nature of the full campaign, including Caccaviello’s reemergence as an independent write-in candidate, to Harrington’s healthy win.

“But I think that a lot of people were very tired of the race," Moon said. "I think that they had already gone through a lot of the drama in the primaries, so going through it again was redundant and I think that people were ready for it to be over.”

Another Harrington staffer said she wasn’t surprised by Tuesday’s result after parsing the primary outcome, which saw Harrington and fellow progressive Judith Knight collectively dominate Caccaviello’s share.

“You know, I don’t think it’s that dramatic because if you look at the Harrington-Knight number – which is a number of change that was significantly higher than Paul’s, I think it was about 60 percent in the primary," said Dina Guiel Lampiasi, the field director and volunteer coordinator for the Harrington campaign. She unsuccessfully ran for Pittsfield city council in 2017, losing to Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi by 44 votes. She attributed Harrington’s victory to a message of change.

“We were talking to the voters about Andrea’s platform, about the fact that she wanted to address crime before crime happens — and prevent crime, really," said Guiel Lampiasi. "And at the end of the day, the voters, they live here — they know what their community is enduring and they know what isn’t working, and I think they heard Andrea’s message.”

Caccaviello conceded Wednesday morning.

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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