Eleni Kounalakis

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Eleni Kounalakis
Kounalakis in 2021
Kounalakis in 2021
50th Lieutenant Governor of California
Assumed office
January 7, 2019
GovernorGavin Newsom
Preceded byGavin Newsom
United States Ambassador to Hungary
In office
January 11, 2010 – July 20, 2013
PresidentBarack Obama
Preceded byApril H. Foley
Succeeded byColleen Bell
Personal details
Eleni Tsakopoulos

(1966-03-03) March 3, 1966 (age 58)
Sacramento, California, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
(m. 2000)
RelativesAngelo Tsakopoulos (father)
George Tsakopoulos (uncle)
George Demos (brother-in-law)
EducationDartmouth College (BA)
University of California, Berkeley (MBA)
WebsiteGovernment website

Eleni Kounalakis[a] (née Tsakopoulos;[b] born March 3, 1966) is an American politician, businesswoman, and diplomat serving since 2019 as the 50th lieutenant governor of California. A Democrat, she is the first woman elected to the office[c] and was United States Ambassador to Hungary from 2010 to 2013.

In 2019, Kounalakis became lieutenant governor of California, after winning the 2018 election.

On April 24, 2023, Kounalakis announced her candidacy for governor of California in the 2026 California gubernatorial election.[1][2]

Early life[edit]

Eleni Kounalakis is the daughter of Angelo Tsakopoulos, a Sacramento developer.[3] Kounalakis is of Greek descent and grew up a member of the Greek Orthodox Church.[4]

Kounalakis received her undergraduate degree from Dartmouth College and a Master of Business Administration from the University of California, Berkeley's Haas School of Business.[5]


Kounalakis as U.S. ambassador

Private career[edit]

Before 2009, Kounalakis was President of AKT Development Corporation, a family-owned real estate, farming, ranching, water,[6] minerals, building, land development and property investment company,[7] based in Sacramento, California, founded by Angelo K Tsakopoulos, her father, in 1964.[8][9]

Kounalakis and her husband, print and broadcast journalist Markos Kounalakis, founded two university chairs in Hellenic studies, the Markos and Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis chair at Georgetown University,[10] held by the scholar of late Classical and early Hellenistic Greek literature, Alexander Sens, and the Tsakopoulos Kounalakis chair in honor of Constantine Mitsotakis at Stanford University, held by Josiah Ober. Both chairs focus on the understanding of the origins of Athenian democracy. They also established the Tsakopoulos Kounalakis lecture series at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars to focus on democracy and international relations.[11]

Kounalakis served for nearly ten years as a Trustee of the World Council of Religions for Peace. In recognition for her work with the WCRP, she was awarded the medal of St. Paul, the Greek Orthodox Church of America's highest honor.[12] San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom appointed her to serve as a Trustee of the War Memorial and Performing Arts Center. San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee appointed her to serve on the Port Commission Board.[13]

Political career[edit]

Kounalakis served four times as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention and as an at-large member of the California State Democratic Central Committee. She also served as a member of the First 5 California Commission, and the California Blue Ribbon Commission on Autism.[14] She served as a Trustee of Robert Redford's Sundance Preserve[citation needed] and on the Conservation Fund's National Forum on Children and Nature. She is also a senior advisor at Albright Stonebridge Group.[15]

In 2009, Kounalakis accepted President Barack Obama's nomination to an ambassadorship.[16]

On April 24, 2017, Kounalakis announced her bid for the office of Lieutenant Governor of California in the 2018 election. After her candidacy announcement, she visited all 58 counties in California during her campaign. Her grassroots campaign earned the recognition of Time magazine[17] for engaging hundreds of volunteers to text over 1 million voters before Election Day. She came in first place on June 5, 2018, in the top-two statewide primary; Democratic State Senator Ed Hernandez placed second.[18] On November 6, Kounalakis was elected by a 56.6% to 43.3% margin against her opponent, becoming the first female elected Lieutenant Governor of California in history; Mona Pasquil was appointed in an acting capacity in 2009 following the resignation of John Garamendi but was not elected to the post.[19][20] Kounalakis and Governor-elect Gavin Newsom took office on January 7, 2019.[21]

Kounalakis was re-elected lieutenant governor in 2022.[22] She announced her candidacy for governor in the 2026 election on April 24, 2023.[23]

Kounalakis serves on the Regents of the University of California (the lieutenant governor of California holds one seat). In September 2023, she voted to delay approval of an eight-story, 545-bed dorm for UCLA students in Los Angeles's affluent Westwood neighborhood due to concerns of undersized dorms.[24] The board approved the project in November 2023.[25]

Following her efforts to disqualify Donald Trump from the 2024 presidential election, she was doxxed and swatted, part of a series of similar events nationwide.[26]

Personal life[edit]

Eleni Tsakopoulos married Markos Kounalakis in 2000.[27] They have two sons.[28]

In 2011, she received an Honorary Doctor of Law from the American College of Greece.[29]

Electoral history[edit]


2018 California lieutenant gubernatorial election[30][31]
Primary election
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Eleni Kounalakis 1,587,940 24.2%
Democratic Ed Hernandez 1,347,442 20.6%
Republican Cole Harris 1,144,003 17.5%
Democratic Jeff Bleich 648,045 9.9%
Republican David Fennell 515,956 7.9%
Republican Lydia Ortega 419,512 6.4%
Republican David R. Hernandez 404,982 6.2%
No party preference Gayle McLaughlin 263,364 4.0%
Libertarian Tim Ferreira 99,949 1.5%
Democratic Cameron Gharabiklou 78,267 1.2%
No party preference Danny Thomas 44,121 0.7%
No party preference Marjan S. Fariba (write-in) 18 0.0%
Total votes 6,553,599 100.0%
General election
Democratic Eleni Kounalakis 5,914,068 56.55%
Democratic Ed Hernandez 4,543,863 43.45%
Total votes 10,457,931 100.00%
Democratic hold


2022 California lieutenant gubernatorial election[32][33]
Primary election
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Eleni Kounalakis (incumbent) 3,617,121 52.65%
Republican Angela Underwood Jacobs 1,365,468 19.88%
Republican David Fennell 922,493 13.43%
Republican Clint W. Saunders 306,216 4.46%
Democratic Jeffrey Highbear Morgan 229,121 3.33%
Peace and Freedom Mohammad Arif 183,150 2.67%
Democratic William Cavett Saacke 171,800 2.50%
No party preference David Hillberg 74,289 1.08%
No party preference James Orlando Ogle (write-in) 25 0.0%
Total votes 6,869,683 100.0%
General election
Democratic Eleni Kounalakis (incumbent) 6,418,114 59.70%
Republican Angela Underwood Jacobs 4,332,598 40.30%
Total votes 10,750,712 100.0%
Democratic hold

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Greek: Ελένη Κουναλάκη, IPA: [eˈleni kunaˈlaki]
  2. ^ Greek: Τσακοπούλου, IPA: [tsakoˈpulu]
  3. ^ Mona Pasquil was the first woman to serve as Lieutenant Governor of California, but had been appointed.


  1. ^ "Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis announces early bid in 2026 California governor's race". Los Angeles Times. April 24, 2023. Retrieved December 1, 2023.
  2. ^ "Eleni Kounalakis first to launch campaign for California governor in 2026". POLITICO. April 24, 2023. Retrieved December 1, 2023.
  3. ^ Luna, Taryn (June 3, 2018). "Candidate, her father have spent millions to elect her California's lieutenant governor". The Sacramento Bee. Retrieved November 12, 2018.
  4. ^ "Say hello to Eleni Kounalakis". Capitol Weekly. November 27, 2018. Retrieved October 30, 2019.
  5. ^ "Berkeley-Haas". The Magazine of the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley. Archived from the original on October 21, 2016. Retrieved March 15, 2013.
  6. ^ "Kyriakos Tsakopoulos". American Hellenic Institute. Retrieved December 1, 2023.
  7. ^ Anderson, Mark (October 1, 2018). "AKT Development sells Lennar 1,200 home sites in west Roseville". bizjournals.com Sacramento Business Journal. Retrieved December 1, 2023.
  8. ^ "UC Irvine hosts California's lieutenant governor as it prepares to add student housing". Los Angeles Times. April 12, 2023.
  9. ^ "Land Developer to U.S. Ambassador". Berkeley-Haas. Retrieved May 5, 2012.
  10. ^ "Georgetown University Receives $1.2 Million Gift for Hellenic Studies Chair". Archived from the original on March 16, 2014. Retrieved June 26, 2012.
  11. ^ "Southeast Europe Project Announces Scholars". Wilson Center. The project features the Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis Lecture Series as a forum for world leaders and distinguished scholars who study, understand, and manifest democracy and reason as classical Hellenism's vital contributions to contemporary statecraft and society.
  12. ^ "Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis Receives Greek Orthodox Church of America's Highest Honor". PSEKA.
  13. ^ Mayor Ed Lee's Port Commission picks sails through board committee, sfexaminer.com.
  14. ^ "Appointed Members of the Legislative Blue Ribbon Commission on Autism". Archived from the original on January 23, 2013. Retrieved March 15, 2013.
  15. ^ "Eleni Tsakopoulos, Albright Stonebridge Group".
  16. ^ "President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts". whitehouse.gov (Press release). October 9, 2009 – via National Archives.
  17. ^ Steinmetz, Katy (October 24, 2018). "Why Politicians Are Texting You So Much — And It's Only the Beginning". Time.
  18. ^ Gregory, Madeleine; Cannestra, Sakura (June 6, 2018). "Eleni Kounalakis and Ed Hernandez advance to general election for lieutenant governor". The Daily Californian.
  19. ^ "2018 California General Election Results". Election Results. Archived from the original on June 10, 2019. Retrieved November 13, 2018.
  20. ^ Palosi, Ken (November 7, 2018). "Eleni Kounalakis Wins California's Lieutenant Governor's Race". CBS.
  21. ^ Skelton, George (November 12, 2018). "Eleni Kounalakis can carve out a meaningful role as lieutenant governor. It's in her genes". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 12, 2018.
  22. ^ "California Lieutenant Governor Election Results 2022: Kounalakis Defeats Underwood Jacobs". The New York Times. December 13, 2022. Retrieved April 24, 2023.
  23. ^ Cadelago, Christopher (April 24, 2023). "Eleni Kounalakis first to launch campaign for California governor in 2026". Politico. Retrieved April 24, 2023.
  24. ^ "How small is too small? UC Regents delay approval of new UCLA dorm, questioning room size". Los Angeles Times. September 22, 2023.
  25. ^ https://newsroom.ucla.edu/stories/ucla-affordable-student-housing-chancellor-block-honored
  26. ^ Cadelago, Christopher (January 4, 2024). "California lieutenant governor 'swatted' after push to boot Trump from ballot". POLITICO. Retrieved January 5, 2024.
  27. ^ Brinkerhoff, Noel. "Ambassador to Hungary: Who is Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis?". AllGov. Retrieved November 26, 2020.
  28. ^ "Meet Eleni". Eleni Kounalakis for California Lt. Governor.
  29. ^ "American College of Greece Commencement". DEREE.
  30. ^ "Statement of Vote" (PDF). California Secretary of State. Retrieved July 20, 2018.
  32. ^ "California June 7, 2022 Primary Statement of Vote" (PDF). Retrieved July 16, 2022.
  33. ^ "General Election - Statement of the Vote, November 8, 2022" (PDF). California Secretary of State. Retrieved December 15, 2022.

External links[edit]

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by United States Ambassador to Hungary
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Lieutenant Governor of California