Berkshire DA Paul Caccaviello to run as write-in candidate
PITTSFIELD — After losing a primary earlier this month, Berkshire District Attorney Paul Caccaviello has announced he will mount a write-in campaign to hold onto his position.
"I have to answer the call that I'm hearing from so many people throughout Berkshire County, to stay in this race for District Attorney," Caccaviello said Wednesday morning. "I'm answering the call from the grassroots organization that has formed, urging me to continue as a write-in candidate on the November ballot."
Caccaviello, who said he is running because of a outpouring of support from the community, lost to attorney Andrea Harrington by 692 votes in the three-way Democratic primary Sept. 4. Judith Knight, a Great Barrington attorney, polled third in the race.
Harrington, 43, of Richmond, ran on a pledge to reform the District Attorney's Office, which had been run by David F. Capeless for 14 years until he retired in March. The governor appointed Caccaviello, who was first assistant district attorney at the time, as Capeless' successor.
While Harrington had the public support of progressive community leaders in the city, including Mayor Linda Tyer, city councilors Kevin Morandi and Melissa Mazzeo and Berkshire County Sheriff Thomas Bowler were among Caccaviello's supporters.
Caccaviello, who has worked in the Berkshire District Attorney's office for nearly 30 years, won in 14 of the county's 32 towns, while Harrington took 10 and Knight had eight.
He received 46 percent of the Pittsfield vote, but Harrington won in key municipalities like North Adams and Great Barrington. In Williamstown, Harrington saw her most decisive municipal victory, winning 58 percent of the vote with a 589-vote margin over Caccaviello.
"I am incredibly proud to be the Democratic nominee for Berkshire County District Attorney," Harrington said in a written statement. "On September 4th, we won the Democratic primary election, because Berkshire County residents want a new direction in the justice system — prioritizing treatment over incarceration for nonviolent drug offenses, standing up for victims of crime, and aggressively prosecuting violent criminals and traffickers of heroin and fentanyl. Voters put their trust in my vision and experience, and I look forward to fighting each and every day to make our region a safer and healthier place to live."
At this point, the write-in campaign is in its early stages, according to Caccaviello, who said he's seeking advice and input from a grassroots movement that has formed in the wake of his loss at the primaries.
His campaign has not hired a professional political strategist and is still considering whether or not to utilize a sticker campaign to better get the vote out, Caccaviello said Wednesday.
While there was no professional research, like polling, behind Caccaviello's decision to run, he said that nearly every day since Sept. 4, he has been contacted by men and women who were either unable to vote because they are registered Republicans or Independents, or are unenrolled and didn't vote.
"I've been registered independent all my life," he said. "It had been my choice to run in the primary as a Democrat."
Caccaviello said while he's glad he ran as a Democrat in the primary so he was able to participate in debates with Harrington and Knight, he still believes the office of the district attorney is nonpartisan and everyone should have the opportunity to vote.
"I'm obviously going to reach out to every voter," he said
After Caccaviello conceded on primary night, Knight showed up at Caccaviello's election gathering at Mazzeo's Ristorante to offer him her support.
On Wednesday, Knight said that she considered running a write-in campaign herself, but decided against it because she wasn't sure if she'd be able to raise the necessary money to do so. It's a good thing that Caccaviello is running as a write-in because the office needs someone with trial experience in that office, Knight said.
While Caccaviello may have been targeted in the primary by opponents who suggest he and the Berkshire District Attorney's office are resistant to reform and too heavy handed in prosecuting low-level offenses, Harrington was criticized for her limited trial experience.
Harrington has been an attorney for more than 15 years and has handled several hundred cases, including post-conviction work, labor litigation and criminal defense work, but she has taken fewer than a dozen criminal cases to trial. Criminal defense experience is not a prerequisite for the position, but Knight said that she wants someone with more courtroom experience than Harrington in that office.
But in order to fully throw her support behind Caccaviello, she said, she wants to see him come out strongly in support some reform ideas, like the use of diversion programs, treatment over jail time for addicts, and backing off the use of mandatory minimum sentences.
"I need Paul to start publicly embracing these reform ideas that I've been talking about for years," Knight said. "I think he's learning and he's wanting to go in that direction."
Caccaviello has consistently said throughout his campaign, and again on Wednesday, that he's "not a politician" and refused to make sweeping statement on criminal justice policy reform. Each case has to be looked at individually, he said.
"I'm proud of our campaign, the issue-oriented high road we took and that we spent significantly less money than my opponent who achieved such a narrow margin of victory," Caccaviello said.
As of Sept. 15, Caccaviello had about $2,137 in his state campaign finance account, including about $700 in donations that came in after the state primary.
The person elected to the office of the district attorney should not be someone in "pursuit of a political agenda," but rather someone dedicated to public safety, he said, adding that the support he's gotten "has been as humbling as compelling."
Voters "must know that their DA is an experienced criminal attorney with a vast depth of knowledge," Caccaviello said. "Not a product manufactured by a powerful political machine."
"Many of the voters who have reached out to me over the last two weeks have expressed two common concerns: the importance of a candidate's experience and demonstrated accomplishments, and what they view as money, support, and political influence on the race from outside of Berkshire County," he said in the statement. "I share those concerns and vow to redouble my efforts to keep the office of the District Attorney accountable to the people we serve and in the hands of competence, experience, and judgement informed by the prosecution of 5,000 plus cases."
Haven Orecchio-Egresitz can be reached at email@example.com, @HavenEagle on Twitter and 413-770-6977.
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