Harrington takes the stage to thank her supporters.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The race for the district attorney post turned into long slog into the evening as incumbent Paul Caccaviello attempted to fend off prime challenger Andrea Harrington.
The lead between the candidates shifted as the votes in the two cities were recorded but narrowed as ballots from the smaller towns came streaming in. Harrington opened up a lead that couldn't be overcome.
It was after 11 p.m. before Harrington, a defense attorney, claimed victory, her supporters chanting "Andrea, Andrea" as she took the microphone to thank them.
But she and her followers were already primed as she spoke them at Flavours of Malaysia, earlier in the evening — her message filled with hope.
"We fight and we fight and we don't win," she said, referring to the often disenfranchised. "But it looks like tonight we may have changed that story ...
"It looks like this county has chosen hope over fear. Our best days in Berkshire County are in front of us not behind us."
While the winner is going on to the general election, there's no one on the ballot to oppose the Democratic nominee.
Caccaviello, the handpicked successor for District Attorney David Capeless, conceded not long after 11 p.m. when it became apparent he couldn't overcome the widening gap in the polls.
"I called her earlier and conceded the primary. She ran a tenacious campaign," Caccaviello said. "You watch the numbers and percentages as far as who called in and it gets to that point."
The 30-year veteran prosecutor won his hometown of Dalton by nearly the double the votes of Harrington but was only able to stay 600 votes ahead of her in the big prize of Pittsfield.
Harrington, meanwhile, saw her investment in North County pay off by taking all five of North Adams' wards and pummeling Caccaviello and third candidate Judith Knight in Williamstown nearly four to one. The incumbent, however, was able to hold the more conservative Adams and Cheshire — but not enough to wipe out Harrington's lead.
Around 10 p.m., Caccaviello addressed his supporters at Mazzeo's and warned them it wasn't over yet.
"It's obviously a very tight race, a very close race," he said to the cheering crowd. "I would tell you that the effort of everyone in this room and beyond supporting me in this candidacy has been overwhelming ... I think it's going to be a long night. Let's hope that we get the numbers this campaign deserves ...
"This is a county that deserves public safety, public service and people that want to do the work and do justice for the people we serve."
And it still might not be over yet. Caccaviello is planning to take a couple of days to reflect on the campaign but at this point, he wouldn't rule out a write-in campaign in the November general election.
"It is really to evaluate options and maybe consider a write-in campaign. You have to think about that if it is this close," Caccaviello said.
Caccaviello supporters had an up-and-down evening at Mazzeo's as they were elated with early reported wins in various Pittsfield wards. The city is the largest voting section and a large win there is difficult to overcome.
But, soon, Williamstown's numbers came in and brought a damper to the party as that lead established in Pittsfield was wiped away with Harrington making up just about all of the difference. That was shortly followed by news that Harrington had won in North Adams. But, the roars of applause went up when a number of towns tipped Caccaviello's way.
Paul Caccaviello was surrounded by supporters when he watched the results come in.
Those at that event included Capeless, Sheriff Thomas Bowler, City Councilors Melissa Mazzeo, Anthony Simonelli, and Kevin Morandi.
But Harrington still kept a lead with only a few towns left to report and the unofficial results became more clear. At Flavours in Pittsfield, Harrington supporters were collecting the outstanding numbers.
Then after Lee's numbers arrived, former City Councilor Barry Clairmont made an announcement to supporters that Harrington had enough votes to declare a victory.
Cheers erupted and in the Harrington camp were the likes of state Reps. John Barrett III and Tricia Farley-Bouvier, Mayor Linda Tyer, City Councilors Peter Marchetti, John Krol, Helen Moon, and Pete White.
Tyer and Barrett then took the stage to announce Harrington as the next district attorney. And that's when Harrington got the call. Unsure if there would be a concession given how close of a race it was, Harrington was on stage ready to declare when Caccaviello called.
Meanwhile, Knight, who trailed in third place, conceded early in the evening that her campaign had "been a long shot."
"All things considered I did pretty well and if I had more time and more able to go further, I think it would have turned things," she said. "I got my message out, which is the most important."
Knight claimed both the progressive mantle and the experience, having worked as prosecutor, public defender and defense attorney. Programs she was talking about in her first run for the district attorney's office were now coming to fruition — and she said she isn't about to see the winner drop the ball and that she'll be watching what unfolds in the coming years carefully.
The campaigning, she said, was a little too political and less about issues. Knight believes Harrington had gotten a big boost of support from the Pittsfield mayor's office — and that Caccaviello had been a little late in realizing he'd have to fight for his job.
"I feel I stayed true to what I know. I stayed true to my heart," Knight said, laughing as she didn't rule out another try if the next district attorney doesn't live up to expectations.
Town and city clerks were happy with the turnout, saying it was higher than normal for a primary. In many towns, the turnout for this primary exceeded that of the last presidential primary.
North Adams City Clerk Marilyn Gomeau didn't have final numbers on the voting — the new machines apparently don't total quite the same as the old ones — but believed it had been a good, steady turnout.
"The new machines are working great," Gomeau said. The city had pegged turnout at about 13.6 percent at 4:30, prior to the after-work rush. Last year's state representative primary saw a 28 percent turnout.
In Lenox, the turnout was 33 percent, with 1,477 votes cast out of 3,178 registered voters.
Cheshire Town Clerk Christine Emerson was also pleased with the primary voting. "We had a very good 597, just about double what we do for a primary," she said.
That voter turnout may have helped push Harrington to victory. It was all smiles and cheers at Harrington's victory party, as she thanked family, friends and supporters for the effort that put into her campaign.
"We have worked harder and smarter than ever thought possible," she said, adding that "campaigns aren't won by complicated strategies" but by phone calls, emails, house meetings and knocking on doors.
"I told her she had to produce a ground game ... she produced a ground game second to none," said Barrett, an early supporter.
Harrington took time to applaud the work of Caccaviello, saying she'd heard from victims across the county how he had fought for them. Her husband, Tim Walsh, reminded them that "there's no dancing in the end zone for us, there's a lot of work to be done."
"To everybody who voted for me, who believed in me, who believed together we can build a new future for Berkshire County," Harrington said. "For all the people who did not vote for me, I promise I will work just as hard for you as I work for everybody else."
On Tuesday night, Harrington and her supporters celebrated but she is prepared to start working on changing the direction of the office right away. Dennis Powell, president of the local NAACP branch and a member of the School Committee, told supporters that "we voted her in and now we have to support her."
Meanwhile, Caccaviello compared the campaign to a trial: he made his best case and the jury - or in this case the voters - decided.
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