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Lt. Governor Eleni T. Kounalakis (Photo: Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

Lt. Governor Kounalakis Announces 2026 Run For Governor

‘A big challenge is how the people that know her see her as a San Francisco elite’

By Evan Symon, April 24, 2023 12:36 pm

Lt. Governor Eleni Kounalakis announced on Monday that she is officially running for Governor in 2026, becoming the first major candidate to declare their candidacy over three years before the 2026 primary election.

Kounalakis, a graduate of both Dartmouth and UC Berkeley, started her career as president of a Housing firm and as a founder of Greek studies programs at Georgetown and Stanford. Kounalakis largely avoided political  offices until the 2000’s, when then Mayor of San Francisco Gavin Newsom appointed her as a trustee for the War Memorial and Performing Arts Center.

Her work in European studies led to her being chosen as the U.S. Ambassador to Hungary in 2010 by then-President Barack Obama, with her staying in the position until 2013. Following that, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee appointed her to the city Port Commission Board, and continued to serve as a delegate during Democratic National Conventions. After being a part of several more state commissions, Kounalakis ran for Lt. Governor in 2018, ultimately winning that November in her first political race and becoming the first non-acting woman to be elected to that position in state history.

Since becoming Lt. Governor, Kounalakis has been relatively low-key, only making headlines when she is filling in for Newsom and needs to sign bills into law or when she makes a controversial statement. However, many Californians remain unaware of her, even being unsure of what party she belongs to or where in the state she is from, despite Kounalakis being on ballots in 2018 and 2022.

Despite her low-name recognition, Kounalakis announced on Monday that she would be running for Governor in 2026 and is starting a campaign committee immediately. In her announcement, she noted that she wants to go after several issues currently affecting California, including the homeless crisis, cost-of-living issues, the housing crisis, mental health issues, and the fentanyl crisis.

“Today I’m launching my campaign to become the next Governor of the great state of CA,” tweeted Kounalakis. “My family & I owe everything to our state. I will fight fiercely to make sure EVERY Californian has the chance to walk the path of the CA dream just like I have.”

In follow-up statements, Kounalakis also acknowledged  her early entrance into the race, noting that “The challenges that California has require leaders who are decisive, who have experience and who have a track record of getting things done. It’s like a marathon. You really have to start early. I’m committed to this. I’m ready to run it. We’re in a time where women’s rights are being attacked in ways that were inconceivable before Donald Trump won. I am the first woman elected lieutenant governor of California, and God willing, I will be the first woman elected governor.”

Kounalakis is also beginning her campaign with $4.4 million in her war chest and a leg up on having more time to have a built up campaign before any others join the race.

Kounalakis enters 2026 Gubernatorial race

Commentators on Monday also drew parallels between Governor Newsom starting his own Gubernatorial Committee in February 2015 for his run in 2018. Kounalakis will need time to raise funds and gain more name recognition in the months and years leading up to the 2026 primary.

However, many also noted that Kounalakis is entering the race with less initial name recognition than previous Democratic candidates who ultimately became Governor, with Jerry Brown having been Governor decades before and Newsom having been the Mayor of San Francisco, as well as a higher-profile Lt. Governor.

“That’s Lt. Governor Kounalakis’ biggest battle right now – having people recognize who she even is,” Hope Gordon, a New York-based political analyst who focuses on female Gubernatorial candidates across the U.S., told the Globe Monday. “It’s not her policies, although those will flare up when more people enter the race. It’s not her history, as she has been relatively quiet. And it’s not even having a difficult to pronounce name, as other Californian Governors like Schwarzenegger and Deukmejian easily got past it as people heard it more and more. It’s even knowing who she is.”

“She doesn’t get mentioned often, and there is no big office from the past people will know her from. Before Lt. Governor, her biggest position was Ambassador to Hungary, and that’s not one that exactly gets mentioned every day. She’s coming in early, so her battle right now is to get her name out there and maybe begin to make a few waves like showing up with Newsom more at events or visiting disaster areas more often.”

“Another big challenge is how the people that do know her see her as elite. A San Francisco elite. Look at how many higher ed places she has her name on and who she hangs out with. That doesn’t exactly endear her to the people. She could do the usual cure-all of showing up at veteran’s events, getting photos with police officers, and having the media tag along on a bowling event. But the big thing is that she needs to connect with people.”

“Right now this is all still too early. She’s the first one to really enter the race, and the 2026 Gubernatorial race will be big. A lot of people will be running with Newsom being out, and that includes a lot of women likely to be jumping in the race, as well as a few prominent GOP candidates giving it a shot too. It will be a tough election, and that’s why Kounalakis is in now. She needs to raise money and have average voters know who she is before anyone else big enters and steals her thunder.”

Other major candidates are expected to announce runs or exploratory committees in the coming months. If elected, Lt. Gov. Kounalakis would become be the first female Governor of California.

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3 thoughts on “Lt. Governor Kounalakis Announces 2026 Run For Governor

  1. Early bird wins the race….
    She has to build her piggy bank like all good greedy politicians, oink, oink!

    Who in the hell would vote another democrat at this point???

  2. Another politician who has never had a real job or had to make a payroll. Would she even know how to run a hot dog cart?

  3. She’s the pampered and privileged daughter of wealthy California real estate developer Angelo Tsakopoulos who has donated heavily to Newsom’s campaigns and the Democrat party. She’s a radical leftist Democrat and WEF globalist minion. Why else would Newsom promote someone like her who has zero charisma?

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