After DA primary loss, Caccaviello returns to office, mulls future

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Berkshire District Attorney Paul Caccaviello went right back to work Wednesday morning.

He had slept just a few hours after a late, disappointing evening waiting for election results at Mazzeo's Ristorante, but he was eager to continue on with his responsibilities in the office where he's worked for nearly three decades.

"Today is no different than yesterday was. ... We still have a job to do for the public," he said he told his staff. "Yesterday does not change their commitment. That should continue despite the election results."

Caccaviello faces an uncertain future after narrowly losing Tuesday's primary to Richmond attorney Andrea Harrington. He told The Eagle on Wednesday he plans to take the next few days to breathe before deciding on his next steps.

Harrington edged out the sitting district attorney, winning with 39 percent to his 36 percent of the 21,560 countywide votes. Judith Knight, who had successes in many South County towns, took 24 percent.

"We knew that it was going to be tight," said Harrington, who spent Wednesday relaxing with her family after the long, hard-fought campaign. "What surprised me was the voter turnout."

As the numbers were coming and it became clear that turnout was much higher than anticipated, she said, she wasn't sure how it would shake out.

"But things still fell the way we expected it to," she told The Eagle.

Caccaviello, too, was surprised with the high voter turnout, which he said indicates an interest in the work of the District Attorney's Office.

He said he was happy he had succeeded in Pittsfield and Dalton, as he expected.

"The Williamstown numbers were interesting," he said, "but I have nothing to compare them to."

Harrington won that town overwhelmingly with 60 percent of the vote. Knight took 25 percent, and Caccaviello came in last with only 13 percent of the 1,390 votes.

Caccaviello said that with such a close overall winning margin, he has to at least contemplate running a write-in campaign in the general election. With no Republican on the ballot, Harrington otherwise will face no opposition in the election Nov. 6 and would be sworn in as the new district attorney on Jan. 2.

"It's an option to consider, but I think the important thing to do now is for everyone to take a breath, sit back for a day or two and think about all the options," he said.

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As for a transition of the office, Caccaviello said he and Harrington hadn't talked since he called her to concede Tuesday.

As the last towns started reporting their results on Tuesday night, and the roomful of excited supporters had grown somber, Caccaviello took the microphone.

"Obviously this was a long campaign. This was a hard-fought campaign," he said, conceding the race. "We had good values and we continue to have good values."

The Berkshire District Attorney's Office is a victim-oriented office committed to the community it serves, he told the crowd.

"That's a value that will never change," he said. "No matter who's sitting in the district attorney seat."

Knight joined Caccaviello's camp at the end of Tuesday night and thanked him for his decades of service to Berkshire County.

"This is not a political move," she said, after hugging Caccaviello. "It seemed like the natural thing to do."

She could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

The high turnout and spirited three-way race could be indicative of a nationwide dialogue on criminal justice reform.

Over the summer, the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts ran a statewide education campaign to inform voters about the role of a district attorney and the races, which tend to go uncontested.

A poll released by the group last summer showed that voters have limited knowledge of district attorneys' power, budgets and accountability,.

Rashaan Hall, who led the ACLU's effort, said in a statement Tuesday that he's proud that the "What a Difference a DA Makes" campaign contributed to the conversation about the power of the county office.

"For the first time in 36 years, voters in five Massachusetts DA districts face a choice this fall. Today's voter turnout — from Boston to the Berkshires — shows that when voters are given a real choice on the ballot and given the information they need about candidates' records and positions, they will get involved and show up at the polls." he said in a statement Tuesday. "But the work doesn't stop with the primary election: Again in November, voters will have the opportunity to send a clear message of support for a criminal legal system that works for everyone."

Staff writer Amanda Drane contributed to this report.

Haven Orecchio-Egresitz can be reached at horecchio@berkshireeagle.com, @HavenEagle on Twitter and 413-770-6977.


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