PITTSFIELD — The three candidates in the race for Berkshire District Attorney will debate for the first time Wednesday.

Private attorneys Andrea Harrington and Judith Knight and current Berkshire District Attorney Paul Caccaviello will face off at 6:30 p.m. at the American Legion Post 68 on Wendell Avenue.

Berkshire Brigades, representing county Democrats, is sponsoring the debate, moderated by state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield.

Berkshire Brigades Chairwoman Sheila Irvin urges voters to pay close attention to what the candidates have to say, noting it is the county's first contested district attorney race in more than a decade.

"A District Attorney decides life and death issues," Irvin said in prepared remarks. "The DA decides who to prosecute; the DA brings sentencing recommendations that can change one's life forever."

Since all three candidates are Democrats and no other parties have candidates on the ballot for the four-year term, the Sept. 4 Democratic primary will essentially decide the race. The winner succeeds former DA David Capeless, who retired in March.

Gov. Charlie Baker appointed Caccaviello, the first assistant district attorney, to replace Capeless.

Since graduating from the Western New England School of Law in Springfield in 1989, Caccaviello has been an assistant Berkshire DA under four different district attorneys.

In recent years he's prosecuted several high-profile cases. In 2008, Caccaviello was named prosecutor of the year by the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association for the prosecution of Damien Lamb, convicted of a 2005 murder in which the body was never found.

He was also recognized by the National Crime Victims' Rights Week event for his prosecution of the Rev. Gary Mercure, a former Catholic priest convicted of sexual assaults from 20 years earlier, and served as co-counsel in the prosecution of Adam Lee Hall, David Chalue and Caius Veiovis, convicted of a 2011 triple murder.

Harrington was the first to declare her candidacy, a week after Capeless retired. She is an attorney at Connor & Morneau LLP and has been practicing law for 15 years, with extensive experience in criminal law and civil litigation.

A Richmond native and alum of Taconic High School in Pittsfield, Harrington is a member of the Berkshire Bar Association and Hampden County Bar Association. She currently sits on the Richmond School Committee and has been active on the town's Affordable Housing Committee.

Harrington ran an unsuccessful bid two years ago for state Senate. Adam Hinds eventually won that political battle, succeeding former Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, who didn't seek re-election.

Knight is making her second bid in 12 years to become the county's top prosecutor, losing to Capeless in the 2006 Democratic primary.

She has prosecutorial experience having served as an assistant district attorney in the Middlesex DA's office from 1988 to 1993. In private practice since 2006 in Great Barrington, Knight has worked for two other law firms between 1998 and 2006 and was an adjunct professor at Western New England School of Law from 1999 to 2005.

Dick Lindsay can be reached at rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com and 413-496-6233.