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Tony Thurmond and Elizabeth Echols are facing off in the race for Assembly District 15 to replace termed-out Nancy Skinner. Photos: Campaigns

One of the most hotly contested seats in the Nov. 4 election is the race for Assembly District 15. Nancy Skinner, who has held the seat for six years, is termed out of office and is stepping down.

The battle for the vacant seat pits two Democrats against one another – Tony Thurmond, a former member of the Richmond City Council and the West Contra Costa School Board, and Elizabeth Echols. Echols has never held public office but has served under two presidents, including a recent stint as the regional administrator of the Small Business Administration under President Obama.

Voters will have to choose between two liberal candidates who both want to prioritize education and job creation.

Read past Berkeleyside coverage of the 2014 election.

The League of Women Voters is hosting a forum with Echols and Thurmond on Tuesday, Oct. 7, at 7:30 p.m. in the auditorium of Berkeley City College at 2050 Center St. in downtown Berkeley. The doors will open at 7 p.m. Helen Hutchison, the president of the California League, will moderate the forum.

Berkeleyside is a media sponsor of the debate.

The winner of the election may be in a position to serve as long as 12 years. Proposition 28, adopted by voters in 2012, allows elected officials to serve 12 years in office, in either the Assembly or State Senate, or a combination of both.

Thurmond and Echols do have differing top priorities. In addition to education and jobs, Echols says the environment is one of her main concerns, according to a questionnaire submitted by the League of Women Voters. Thurmond says improving public safety is another of his priorities, according to the questionnaire.

Thurmond is endorsed by Attorney General Kamala Harris, Berkeley City Council members Jesse Arreguín, Max Anderson and Kriss Worthington, Congressman George Miller, the Oakland Tribune, the California Federation of Teachers, and others (see a complete list here).

Echols is endorsed by Skinner, State Senator Loni Hancock, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, the Sierra Club, the California League of Conservation Voters, and the California Democratic Party (see a complete list here).

The 15th Assembly district includes Berkeley, Emeryville, El Cerrito, Albany, Richmond, Pinole, Hercules, San Pablo, North Oakland, Piedmont, El Sobrante and Kensington.

[Editor’s Note: This story originally was published Oct. 3 at 4:22 p.m. The publication time was later changed to ensure inclusion in our Monday email newsletter. No other changes were made.]

Berkeleyside’s Uncharted: The Berkeley Festival of Ideas, will be held on Oct. 24-25 in downtown’s Arts District. Early bird tickets prices end on Monday! To see the full program of Uncharted and to buy tickets, visit the Uncharted website

Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California, published in November...