Dem-on-Dem 15th Assembly District Race Becomes Divisive After Intra-Party Mailer

This mailer sent by the Elizabeth Echols campaign using the chair of the Alameda County Central Committee’s name may be driving a wedge within the party.

ASSEMBLY | 15TH DISTRICT | This is exactly what Democratic Party activists feared with passage four years ago of a state constitutional amendment allowing open primaries. Ever since, in Alameda County, there have been many hard-fought Democratic intra-party General Election matchups, but the race this fall in the 15th Assembly District may be the first one that has gone negative.

Tony Thurmond, Elizabeth Echols

An Assembly candidates in the Berkeley-centered district—Elizabeth Echols—with help from Alameda County Democratic Central Committee Chair Robin Torello is slinging mud at her opponent, Tony Thurmond.

In a hit piece labeled as a “Warning from the Alameda County Democratic Party” sent last week sent by Echols’ campaign, Torello slammed Thurmond for being the beneficiary of $68,722, through Sept. 30, of a committee named Alliance for California’s Tomorrow, A California Business Coalition. “It’s an outrage that a political committee paid for by big oil, tobacco and predatory lenders is trying to buy this Assembly seat,” said the mailer signed by Torello. Alameda County Democrats have endorsed Echols for the seat.

State election laws prohibit expenditure groups from coordinating their efforts with the campaigns they support or those in opposition of an opponent. Last week, Thurmond disavowed the committee and called for campaign finance reform.

The back side of the mailer alerts voters of the committee supporting Thurmond and features its name and address with the heading, “Every time you see this name on mailers for Tony Thurmond, Be Aware:” followed by the admonition, “Don’t be fooled. Don’t let the corporate interests buy our district.”

Yet, the controversy went further Monday when the Oakland-based Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club, which endorsed Thurmond, sent a complaint to Torello in protest of the mailer. In the letter, the club says it is “deeply disturbed” the central committee’s leadership sent the negative mailer against one of their own. It also called for remediation of possible damages against Thurmond’s campaign.

“Most of all, we don’t like your authorizing a hit piece against a fellow Democrat, and we seriously question your ethical and organizational right to do that without any apparent consultation with the elected members of the [Alameda County Democratic Central Committee].”

Furthermore, the letter recognizes the party’s right to support their endorsed candidate, in this case, Echols, but “It is not appropriate to attack Tony Thurmond in the manner that you did, if you value long-term party unity and common decency of discourse.”

NOTE: A correction was made to this article to describe each side of the mailer as being part of the same mailing from the Echols campaign, not two.

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