Lieutenant Governor of California

Applicant Eleni Kounalakis is asking you to hire her for the role of lieutenant governor, which pays $163,917 per year. Her resume:

A portrait of Eleni Kounalakis

Eleni Kounalakis

Lieutenant Governor of California

Professional Profile

The first woman elected lieutenant governor of California (though the second to serve in the position), Eleni Kounalakis already has her eye on higher office. She has said she wants to ensure a female candidate wins the governorship in 2026 — and it could just be her. The light duties of her office, which mainly involve sitting on the governing boards of California’s public higher education systems and a state land use commission, have provided few opportunities to build her profile, however. 

Kounalakis received some attention in March, when she became the first woman to sign a bill into law in California, while Gov. Gavin Newsom was on spring break with his family, and last fall, when she stepped in to lead California’s delegation to the United Nations climate summit in Scotland after Newsom dropped out at the last minute. But otherwise, the spotlight has shined brightest on Kounalakis when she picked a date for last year’s gubernatorial recall election and back in 2019, when she solicited hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations, largely from labor unions, to renovate her state office.


Lieutenant Governor of California


Originally hoping to serve again in the federal government, she pivoted to running for lieutenant governor after Democrat Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 presidential election.

Has been a regular presence at University of California Board of Regents and California State University Board of Trustees meetings, advocating against tuition hikes and executive salary increases and for other policies favored by students.

Appointed by Newsom as California’s representative for international affairs and trade development, she ratified a series of agreements with Mexico on trade, investment, energy, and environmental policy in 2019.

U.S. ambassador to Hungary


Nominated by then-President Barack Obama, she worked to promote free governance in a country with backsliding democratic values.

Wrote a memoir, “Madam Ambassador, Three Years of Diplomacy, Dinner Parties and Democracy in Budapest,” about her experience.

President, ​​AKT Development Corporation


After graduating from business school, she rose from project manager to president at a Sacramento-area housing development firm founded by her father, Angelo Tsakopolous.


  • California Democratic Party
  • Most of California’s statewide elected officials, including Gov. Gavin Newsom and Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla, along with dozens of legislators and members of Congress
  • Major unions such as SEIU California, the California Teachers Association and the California Correctional Peace Officers Association
  • Organizations that support abortion rights candidates, including EMILY’s List, NARAL Pro-Choice California and Planned Parenthood
  • National Women’s Political Caucus of California
  • Vice President Kamala Harris

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“I remain more determined than ever to ensure that while I may be the first to do so, I will certainly not be the last.” (in a statement after she became the first woman to sign a bill into law in California).

Here’s a look at where Kounalakis stands on the most pressing issues she would face in office.

Key Topics
Where Eleni Kounalakis Stands on the Issues
Higher education

Higher education
While California boasts the best and biggest public university systems in the nation, they’re in turmoil. The University of California is facing a student housing crunch at the same time it is under intense pressure to increase the number of in-state students. UC Berkeley needed intervention by lawmakers to avoid an enrollment cap. Meanwhile, the California State University just had its chancellor forced out and is struggling to improve access, including enough student housing. The lieutenant governor is on the boards of both the UC and CSU systems.      

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Should the proportion of out-of-state students at the University of California (18% of undergraduates) be lower? Do you support paying the UC to enroll fewer out-of-state students?

We must create more room for California students in the University of California, particularly at campuses in highest demand. The compacts between the UC and the Newsom administration are an important step. Over the next four years, the UC will add 8,000 undergraduate students with concentrated growth at UC Berkeley, UC Los Angeles, and UC San Diego. The UC just announced  a 1.2% increase in the number of California students admitted for fall 2022. At the same time, I believe out-of-state and international students are an important part of the fabric of our campuses and contribute to our diversity. 

How would you keep Cal State campuses accessible to residents, since nearly every campus has programs with more qualified applicants than space?

Every Californian deserves a chance to access our transformative institutions of public higher education. The higher ed compacts also include 1% annual enrollment growth for the next four years, leading to an additional 14,000 resident undergraduates at the CSU. Significant progress has also been made to increase graduation rates and close equity gaps, but still only 33% of first-time students graduate in four years, far below private institutions and UC’s. We must be doing everything we can to ensure that our students can get through the CSU in a timely manner, saving students, taxpayers and the state time and money. 

California is stuck in a drought, with few signs the emergency will improve any time soon — or that voluntary measures will be enough. The state is also struggling to reach its goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while also advancing environmental justice for communities with dirty air and water. The lieutenant governor serves on the state Lands Commission, the California Ocean Protection Council and the California Coastal Commission.

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Do you support efforts to phase out oil drilling in California, including by shutting down offshore rigs in coastal state waters?

I support a practical approach to phasing out oil drilling in California. That means starting with off-shore drilling. As a member of the state Lands Commission, I have overseen the capping and abandonment of numerous legacy facilities. I have also voted to terminate three offshore oil and gas leases for non-compliance, and returned more than 7,200 acres offshore to the California Coastal Sanctuary. As off-shore oil leases lapse, they should not be renewed. Oil drilling off the coast of California is too risky; the value of our coast for recreation, shipping traffic and its ecology should be prioritized.

Should the state issue a mandatory water conservation order as drought persists?

I strongly support public awareness campaigns to alert Californians to the threat posed to our state by extreme drought. The State Water Resources Control Board is enacting measures which I hope will lead to a reduction of water use in the state. I am following their actions closely.

Even though the economy is rebounding from COVID, California still has the nation’s highest jobless rate and hasn’t recovered all the jobs lost. Experts say the pandemic widened the gap between California’s rich and poor in some ways, despite unprecedented direct relief. The lieutenant governor is chairperson of the California Commission for Economic Development.

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Do you support a further increase in the state minimum wage?

The cost of living in California is very high, and income inequality in our state is among the most extreme in the country. I support Gov. Newsom’s projected increase of the California minimum wage to $15.50 on Jan. 1, 2023. 

Is state government doing enough to address the growing divide between the haves and the have-nots? Do you support a guaranteed, basic income?

California must continue to pursue policies that ensure our state is a place where families and all working people can flourish. I am very supportive of the $35 million universal basic income pilot program to study the efficacy and impacts of this policy in closing the disparities in California. 

California’s affordable housing crisis only deepened during the pandemic, as average home prices surged even further out of reach for many families. Homelessness likely worsened as well, prompting Gov. Newsom to propose forcing more homeless and mentally ill people into treatment. The Legislature twice extended a statewide eviction moratorium, but the final protections for renters ended on March 31. Lawmakers also tried to pump up housing supply by allowing duplexes on single-family lots, but cities are pushing back. Some also say the California Environmental Quality Act is stopping housing production.

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How should California increase the production of affordable housing?

California must make building affordable housing one of our top priorities. Housing is a human right, and in order for our state to thrive we must ensure that all working people are able to afford a home. I support legislation to streamline projects through the permitting process that have a high percentage of affordable housing. I also support the governor’s efforts to hold cities and counties accountable to the housing element law.

Do you support the governor’s proposed CARE Court, which would compel some homeless and mentally ill people into treatment?

Although there are details still to be worked out, in principle I support the governor’s proposed CARE Courts. It is very important to include a wide group of experts and stakeholders in developing the details, including local mental health professionals, law enforcement, service providers and others working on the front lines. 

California’s Democratic leaders positioned the state as a sanctuary for people seeking abortions in advance of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe vs. Wade. Hate crimes against Asian Americans jumped during the pandemic, with reported incidents doubling in 2020. And Native American tribes and national betting giants are gearing up for a high-stakes ballot measure fight over online sports gambling, which could also have a significant impact on state tax revenues.

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Should California become a “sanctuary state” for abortion rights?

It saddens me to think that American women must find sanctuary in our state in order to exercise a right that we’ve had for more than 50 years. But as this is the new post-Roe reality, I am committed to doing everything possible to help. I’m a proud co-chairperson of the campaign for Proposition 1, the constitutional amendment to enshrine a woman’s right to reproductive freedom. In the absence of federal law, California must do everything we can to protect women and all people’s bodily autonomy. 

Do you support the ballot measure allowing online sports betting, including by FanDuel and DraftKings? Do you support the proposition legalizing sports betting at tribal casinos?

I have endorsed against Proposition 27. I believe it is deceptive. Ninety percent of the revenue generated by Prop. 27 would go directly into the pockets of out-of-state gaming corporations, while threatening current funding sources for California.