PITTSFIELD — Longtime Berkshire County trial attorney Timothy J. Shugrue on Wednesday announced that he is a candidate for Berkshire district attorney.
He made the announcement in a Facebook post with a photo of himself and his wife at the door of the Registrar of Voters in Pittsfield City Hall.
Shugrue told The Eagle he had been reluctant to throw his hat in the ring, but after he was approached “by so many people asking me to get into the race,” he decided to run in an effort to “reinvigorate the office.”
His announcement tees up a likely Democratic primary battle with incumbent Berkshire District Attorney Andrea Harrington. A third candidate, defense attorney and former prosecutor Robert Sullivan, also is running, as an unenrolled candidate.
“I’m proud of my party, and I don’t care who I run against,” Shugrue said. “I know my own qualifications.”
Shugrue ran for district attorney in 2004, against David Capeless, who had been appointed D.A. by then-Gov. Mitt Romney to serve out the remainder of Gerard D. Downing’s term, after Downing’s death the previous year.
Shugrue, 62, touted his experience as a trial lawyer as a prosecutor and a defense attorney, having served as an assistant district attorney in Springfield, where he handled child abuse cases, and then in Berkshire County, under Downing. He has been a private-practice attorney for 28 years.
He said he confronted a backlog of sexual assault cases in the early days as a Berkshire County prosecutor.
It was then, he said, that he and Detective Joseph Collias founded the child advocacy center, the Berkshire County Kids’ Place, which provides services to domestic violence survivors.
“There’s nobody in this county that has more trial experience than me. There’s nobody in this county that has more social experience than me,” he said. “No one has done more pro bono work. No one has done more charity work, and I think people just realize that I have all those components.”
Shugrue, whose wife, Joann, is serving as campaign manager, said he plans to release a formal platform in April, and will be holding his first fundraiser April 5, with a campaign finance account soon to be opened.
But, he did say the D.A.’s office should get “back in the schools” to lead youth programming and outreach on issues like anti-bullying, and also noted his time teaching at the National College of District Attorneys at the University of Houston Law Center.
“I would like to see these prosecutors get trained,” he said. “I would like to see them have someone who they can go up to and ask questions.”
Harrington’s first term ends at the end of the year. While she formally has not announced her reelection bid, a source close to her campaign has indicated that she will be seeking a second term in office, and staffed up late last year, when the Harrington for District Attorney campaign sought a political and communications fellow.
Harrington ran on a reformer’s platform, and her office often declines to prosecute crimes such as shoplifting, some motor vehicle offenses and possession of “personal use” amounts of drugs.
Shugrue opposes this, saying he believes that you should “sweat the small stuff” and “prosecute the small crimes,” because the criminal justice system has a diversion system and can help link defendants, including those suffering from an addiction, with needed services.
“I think you’d bring him into the system, and then you monitor them and you divert cases through proper channels,” he said. “I don’t believe in kicking the can down the road and not prosecuting people, and then letting them just be out there and have no services and potentially get in trouble again.”