District Attorney Andrea Harrington thanks her supporters after conceding to Timothy Shugrue on Tuesday.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Andrea Harrington twice beat her opponent four years ago to become the first woman district attorney.
But an unhappy electorate voted against giving her another term on Tuesday, boosting defense attorney Timothy Shugrue as the county's top prosecutor.
With no Republican running in the general election, Tuesday's winner is the next DA.
The tone at the candidates' election night parties portended the results — Harrington's gathering of several dozen was quiet but close to 200 people packed into Shugrue's event at Proprietor's Lodge and cheered as the new DA entered the ballroom.
Shugrue thanked in particular the police associations in Pittsfield, North Adams and around the county.
"These people understand that effective prosecution and criminal justice reform are not mutually inconsistent," the former prosecutor said. "They can go hand in hand."
He also repeated campaign themes about making Berkshire County safer and prosecuting low-level offenders, like shoplifters, as part of a strategy to change their behavior.
“Let me be clear, I don't want to send these low-level offenders to jail,” Shugrue said. “But they must learn that criminal behavior has consequences.”
Harrington had run on the same progressive platform that won her the office in 2018: using diversion programs rather than jail for low-level crimes, eliminating cash bail and seeking treatment for drug abusers instead of incarceration.
Shugrue had attacked her policies as a "failed experiment," claiming police weren't making arrests and residents weren't reporting crimes because they felt nothing was being done.
The incumbent had racked up an impressive list of endorsements, including gubernatorial nominee Maura Healey and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren. She defended her programs but it wasn't enough to overcome the sense that the county was awash with crime (even though it's down) or taking the blame for a series of shootings in the city.
The challenger said he wasn't against progressive programs, saying at one point that he was and had been a Democrat his whole life. He also pointed to his founding of Berkshire County Kids Place, which supports children who have been sexually abused, during his years as a prosecutor. He said his experience as a defense attorney will help inform his tenure as DA.
Harrington said she is really proud of the race that she ran and the work that the Berkshire DA's office has done in her term and that she hopes it continues. She's not sure why that work didn't resonate with voters.
"That is so hard for me to comprehend because I feel like we ran a race that was based on values and emotion that was really powerful," she said. "I think maybe some people here in the community just are not ready for the kind of work that we have been doing at the DA's office."
She added that she thinks that there were a lot of misrepresentations of the office's work
"People feel a lot of anxiety and think that the work of the office was not accurately portrayed or received by a lot of people here in the community," Harrington said.
She said she had called and conceded to Shugrue and found him "gracious" in his victor.
"And the thing that we talked about was about the team and the office and I'm very dedicated to ensuring that we have a smooth transition in the district attorney's office," she said. "I want to thank everybody who voted for me. I want to thank all my supporters. I think that we have an amazing vision for the future. And these are things that are part of our shared values, and we're gonna keep working on those."
Shugrue won over Pittsfield nearly 60 percent to Harrington's 40, and won North Adams 863-775. Of the towns reporting in by 10:30 on Tuesday night, Harrington only took Williamstown, and the small towns of Alford, Sheffield and Otis.
He said he wasn't surprised by the margin in a race many thought would be close.
"I've been out everywhere and ... this was really a grassroots campaign and I was getting such positive feedback from the entire county," Shugrue said. "So I felt pretty encouraged before coming in today."
There was concern the rain would depress turnout but Shugrue said he was confident his campaign could get the vote out, saying he "shook hands with everybody in this county, and with every single town, so I'm really proud about that.
"And I think that that's what made the difference."
The new DA said his confidence started building by the first part of August because there wasn't much in person contact earlier in the summer because of COVID-19 concerns.
"Once I started having one-on-one contact, and July and then August, we had so many events all over the county that I was working 90 hours a week and still running my office you, so I could feel it every time I went somewhere because everybody came up to me," he said.
"And on top of that, I didn't ask one person to put a lawn sign up. A lot of signs went up, but people asking me for them. That showed me a lot of confidence. And of course we raised $123,000. And that was all from many, many, many people. So that gave me the confidence. So I felt it building.
"But we just couldn't stop. We had to keep going and going which is what we did. No, I'm very proud of our efforts. I think we got we got to everybody. I think the county got their voice heard and I'm happy about them."