When it comes to political philosophy, there's little difference between the two candidates left in the race for the 15th Assembly District seat, which stretches from Hercules to North Oakland.

Tony Thurmond and Elizabeth Echols are both liberal Democrats whose politics match the district, where Democrats outnumber Republicans by better than 8-1. But Thurmond, the only one with elective office experience, has a critical understanding of local government issues that Echols lacks -- a knowledge base that will serve him well in Sacramento.

In a recent interview with the two candidates, Thurmond's background as a former member of the Richmond City Council and the West Contra Costa school board provided him insights on key state funding issues, especially those affecting schools, that Echols missed.

That extra knowledge should make him a more effective legislator, and for that reason we endorse him in the Nov. 4 election.

We disagree with both candidates on issues such as their backing of Gov. Jerry Brown's high-speed rail plan, their support for using cap-and-trade revenues to help fund it and their view that legislators should inject themselves in local labor disputes such as BART's last year.

That's why neither candidate was our first choice in the June primary, when we endorsed civil rights attorney Pamela Price. But she failed to make the run-off. So, we look to distinguish between the two who remain.


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Echols' resume includes stints as Internet and e-commerce adviser to Vice President Al Gore, policy director at Google and a regional administrator for the federal Small Business Administration under President Barack Obama.

Thurmond's work experience focuses on social services, having served as manager of programs in Alameda, Contra Costa and Marin counties to help foster youth and people with developmental disabilities. In his current job, at the Oakland-based Lincoln Child Center, he oversees programs for truancy prevention, parenting education and school-based mental health services.

But it's his elective office experience that makes him the best qualified. Thurmond was familiar with the state's retiree health care liabilities because he confronted the same issue as a school trustee. Similarly, he knew the details of Brown's plan to repay debt of the state teacher retirement system. And he understood that Proposition 44, which would establish a state rainy day fund, is tied to legislation unwisely capping school district reserve funds.

Echols was not familiar with these issues. She touts her success lobbying for legislation in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., as evidence of her political qualifications. But Thurmond's experience has better prepared him for the key issues a state legislator will confront.