Democratic primary winner Andrea Harrington declared victory in the Berkshire District Attorney general election last night, capping off one of the most contentious campaigns in county history.
Eight months after the abrupt retirement of DA David Capeless, Berkshire County will have a new elected chief prosecutor.
At around 9:30 Tuesday – with unofficial numbers putting her thousands of votes above her opponent, write-in candidate Paul Caccaviello – Harrington’s party at Pittsfield’s Tavern On The A shifted into full celebration mode.
“Something very magical happened this evening, today, in Berkshire County. Democratic values shined through today,” said Greg Yon, a Harrington campaign volunteer. He credited the rise of a new coalition of Democrats in the county.
“Democratic liberals, Democratic moderates, and Democratic progressives came together today and said we are the New Democratics," said Yon. "We are the new Democratics in Berkshire County.”
“I’ve got to tell you something – I’ve been through a lot of campaigns over the years. No campaign has taken more out of me than this one," said State Representative John Barrett. He served as the mayor of North Adams for 26 years. He took on the role of mentor for Harrington over the course of her bid for DA, and crucially, helped deliver her North County with assistance from figures he praised on stage like North Adams City Councilors Jason LaForest and Marie Harpin. Turning to a pair of Pittsfield political insiders and Harrington boosters – city solicitor Rich Dohoney and former city councilor Barry Clairmont, who is married to Mayor Linda Tyer — Barrett said it was a decisive victory.
“Rich Dohoney said- and Barry said – couple weeks ago, he said, ‘we’re going to win every town in Berkshire County’ – and I said what are you guys smoking, anyways?" said Barrett, to laughter. "And I don’t care if it’s legal or not –but I want some of it.”
Harrington’s numbers team used a conservative metric to project tallies throughout the night, giving all ballots considered either “write-in” or “blank” to Caccaviello. Even before official tallies determine which of those ballots actually went to the incumbent DA, Harrington – the only candidate on the ballot – boasted a lead of almost 6,000 votes over the two categories combined.
“Even though there hasn’t been any concessions on any part, we feel as though we’re pretty safe to claim victory in this well-deserved race,” said Barrett.
It was a race defined by an unprecedented level of vitriol, neck-snapping twists and turns, a free flow of accusations of misconduct between the candidates, and ultimately, the historic election of the county’s first female District Attorney.
“From the very beginning of this campaign I was very clear on my message, in that Berkshire County, in the District Attorney’s office, can do so much for this community, and that’s what I intend to do," said Harrington. “I will work together with our elected officials here in Berkshire County to prevent crime, to bring public safety, to put dangerous people behind bars, but also to provide help for people who need it. And I am incredibly grateful for the voters for believing in me and believing in my vision.”
Massive voter turnout throughout the county showed an unusually engaged electorate for a midterm contest, particularly on the heels of a similarly well attended primary. The city clerk in Pittsfield – the county seat – estimated up to 60 percent of registered voters in the city cast ballots Tuesday.
The election pitted Harrington against former Democratic primary rival Caccaviello for a second time in two months, with the incumbent DA hanging his last hope to remain in office on a coalition of Democrats, Republicans, and unenrolled voters with his write-in effort.
“No one’s ever done this before, and I’m proud of the effort our campaign put in to get us to where we are,” said the DA.
Across town at Mazzeo’s restaurant, Caccaviello said he wasn’t ready to concede. That changed Wednesday morning. Caccaviello tells WAMC he conceded to Harrington around 11:30, bringing a definitive close to the hard fought race. Harrington told WAMC that announcements about her transition team are forthcoming.