California Lt. Governor Eleni Kounalakis announces early bid in governor's race

On Monday, April 24, 2023, California Lt. Governor Eleni Kounalakis annonunced her bid to become Californias next governor.  (Office of California Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis)

California Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis officially launched her campaign on Monday to become the state's next governor. Kounalakis made the announcement, the first to do so, in what’s expected to be a crowded field of challengers in the 2026 race to replace Gavin Newsom.

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On Twitter, she said, "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."

The 57-year-old California native described herself as a proud mother, advocate and leader. Her father came to California as a refugee from Greece, and she said that as a daughter of an immigrant, "Her passion and gratitude for California led her to devote her life to public service."

Prior to becoming lieutenant governor, Kounalakis served as President Barack Obama’s Ambassador to the Republic of Hungary. At age 43, she was one of America’s youngest to serve as U.S. Ambassador, according to her bio on the Office of Lieutenant Governor website. 

Kounalakis also served as a member of California’s First 5 Commission and the California Blue Ribbon Commission on Autism.

Before entering public service, Kounalakis was president of housing development firm, AKT Development, where she worked on creating housing for working families in the Sacramento-area. 

On the "Eleni Kounalakis for Governor" website, her campaign said "She is a fierce fighter and strives to build a future where everyone — regardless of race, class, or immigration status — has the same chance and opportunity that she and her family did."

In 2018, Kounalakis was the first woman elected as the state’s lieutenant governor. She’s currently serving her second term.

Her entrance into the governor’s race puts her in the running to become the state's first female governor.

California is among 18 states that have never had a woman governor.