Harrington Reflects On DA Race, Looks Toward Transition Into Office
She didn't think she was an underdog, but she was.
"I didn't realize how improbable my winning was until I actually won," Harrington said on Thursday.
Harrington entered the race in March after former District Attorney David Capeless had maneuvered to place Paul Caccaviello into the office. Caccaviello had strong support from the local business community and many well-established politicos. He already had a stronghold in the county's biggest population center. He was an incumbent with a head start and in line to continue a long history of first assistants taking over the office.
Judith Knight entered the race and quickly had the support of many of the more progressive voters in the county, the same progressives that would likely have been backing Harrington.
And Harrington won.
"When I jumped into this race, I felt like I was going to win. I always knew they were underestimating me," Harrington said.
It wasn't a runaway though. The difference in votes can be counted in the hundreds. And she did lose in Pittsfield, the grand prize.
"It is all about the ground game," Harrington said.
Dina Guiel and City Councilor Helen Moon took lead roles in handling that. In Williamstown, the progressive group Greylock Together pushed hard for Harrington. Her campaign team put in late nights and gave up summer vacations and weekends. They knocked on doors. They made phone calls. They spread the message of reform and change in the criminal justice system at every turn.
State Rep. John Barrett III, whom she had helped in his race last year, and City Councilors Marie T. Harpin and Jason LaForest pushed in North Adams. In Pittsfield, she gained support from Mayor Linda Tyer, City Council President Peter Marchetti and Vice President John Krol.
The race was nasty. It was almost night and day compared to the very positive campaign for state Senate she was part of two years ago. She said she stopped paying attention to the attacks and stopped reading about her opponents.
"Both of my opponents' campaigns were attacking me relentlessly from the very beginning. That, to me, was a signal that they regarded me as a threat and a frontrunner," Harrington said. "I just put my head down and ran my race."
She tried to stay positive and knew it was hard on her family and encouraged them to do the same. The six-month campaign came to a conclusion on Tuesday.
"Those two hours before the polls close is when I started to feel the pressure. At that point, I did everything I could," Harrington said.
Reports were coming in about a much higher voter turnout than was expected. A little feeling of anxiousness crept into Harrington as she worried that maybe she hadn't talked to enough voters.
Polls closed at 8 and soon the Pittsfield numbers were in. She was down about 600 votes.
"I was pleased with the Pittsfield results. I knew I didn't have to win, I just had to hold my own there," Harrington said.
That's when Greylock Together's work in Williamstown made a dramatic appearance. She clobbered her opponents there and picked up almost exactly what she had been behind in Pittsfield.
"Even I was shocked by how many votes I got from Williamstown," Harrington said.
"Thank you, Williamstown!" someone yelled.
North Adams numbers had come in, and the ground game there paid off, too.
"I knew I was going to make up a lot of votes in North County," Harrington said, adding that the campaign focused a good amount of time on that area of the county.
At about 11 p.m., her phone rang. She had a lead that wasn't going to be overcome. Caccaviello was on the phone, conceding the primary election to Harrington.
Sure, the Richmond defense attorney did have support from some influential political leaders in the county herself and she did have name recognition from her last run. But, it was still an upset, a bitter and a close race, and one that had more interest and passion that the Berkshires haven't seen much of in primaries.
"I made promises to the people who voted for me. It is time for me to fulfill those promises," Harrington said.
With no Republican on the ballot -- and barring a last-minute write-in campaign -- the winner of the Democratic primary is essentially the next district attorney.
When Harrington takes over in January, she will become the county's first woman district attorney -- an honor she doesn't take lightly as she heard stories of little girls from the area looking up to her as a role model.
"I think it is amazing. I love it," Harrington said. "What more could I ask for?"
She'll be in touch with Caccaviello soon to start working on a transition plan. With any change in leadership, there is an expected movement with staff and she'll be putting together her team.
"My first order of business would be to put in a place a team that will be ready to start in January," Harrington said.
Harrington has cast herself as a reformer, someone to usher out the "old guard" and bring in change. While the whirlwind of the election has now ended, work on the real reason she entered the race is just starting.
"I didn't run to win this election. I ran this race to transform the community," she said.
Tags: district attorney, election 2018, harrington,
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