Eleni Kounalakis

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Eleni Kounalakis
Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis.jpg
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 Foley
Succeeded byColleen Bell
Personal details
Eleni Tsakopoulos

(1966-03-03) March 3, 1966 (age 52)
Sacramento, California, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Markos Kounalakis
RelativesAngelo Tsakopoulos (father)
George Tsakopoulos (uncle)
EducationDartmouth College (BA)
University of California, Berkeley (MBA)

Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis (born March 3, 1966) is an American diplomat, politician, and businesswoman who is the 50th Lieutenant Governor of California. She is the first woman to serve in this office. Kounalakis previously served as the United States Ambassador to Hungary from 2010 to 2013. She was sworn into office on January 7, 2010, and presented her credentials to President László Sólyom on January 11, 2010. On April 24, 2017, Kounalakis announced her bid for the office of Lieutenant Governor of California in the 2018 election and came in first place in the June 2018 primary election. [1] She is a member of the Democratic Party and was elected as Lieutenant Governor on November 6, 2018.[2]


Before accepting President Obama's nomination to serve as a U.S. Ambassador,[3] Kounalakis was President of AKT Development Corporation, one of California’s largest housing development firms, which was founded by her father.[4] Kounalakis earned her undergraduate degree from Dartmouth College and an Master of Business Administration from the University of California, Berkeley's Haas School of Business.[5] In 2011, she received an Honorary Doctor of Law from the American College of Greece.[6]

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,[7] held by the scholar of late Classical and early Hellenistic Greek literature, Dr. 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.[8]

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.[9] 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.[10]

Political career[edit]

She 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.[11] 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.[12]

On April 24, 2017, Kounalakis announced her bid for the office of Lieutenant Governor of California in the 2018 election. She came in first place on June 6, 2018 in the top-two statewide primary.[13] On November 6th, Kounalakis was elected by a comfortable margin against her opponent, state Senator Ed Hernandez. [14] Kounalakis, along with then Governor-elect Gavin Newsom, took office on January 7, 2019.[15]

After Kounalakis announced her candidacy in 2018 for Lt. Governor, she visited all 58 counties in California during her campaign. Her grassroots campaign earned the recognition of Time Magazine [16] for engaging hundreds of volunteers to text over 1 million voters before Election Day. On June 5, 2018, Kounalakis finished first in the top two 2018 Primary Election out of a field of 11 candidates. On November 6, 2018 Kounalakis was elected the first female Lt. Governor in California history. She won with over 56% of the vote.[17]

Personal life[edit]

Kounalakis is of Greek descent. She and her husband, Markos, have two teenage sons, Neo and Eon.[18] She is the daughter of Angelo Tsakopoulos, a Sacramento developer.[19]


  1. ^ "Kounalakis, Hernandez finish top two in tight CA lieutenant governor race". 6 June 2018.
  2. ^ "Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis - People - Department History - Office of the Historian". history.state.gov.
  3. ^ "President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts". White House.
  4. ^ "Land Developer to U.S. Ambassador". Retrieved 5 May 2012.
  5. ^ "Berkeley-Haas - The Magazine of the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley". www.haas.berkeley.edu.
  6. ^ "American College of Greece Commencement". DEREE.
  7. ^ "Georgetown University Receives $1.2 Million Gift for Hellenic Studies Chair".
  8. ^ "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.
  9. ^ "Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis Receives Greek Orthodox Church of America's Highest Honor". PSEKA.
  10. ^ Mayor Ed Lee's Port Commission picks sails through board committee, sfexaminer.com.
  11. ^ "Appointed Members of the Legislative Blue Ribbon Commission on Autism".
  12. ^ "Eleni Tsakopoulos, Albright Stonebridge Group".
  13. ^ "June 6, 2018 - Eleni Kounalakis Wins Primary for Lieutenant Governor".
  14. ^ "Eleni Kounalakis Wins California's Lieutenant Governor's Race". 7 November 2018.
  15. ^ 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 12 November 2018.
  16. ^ "Why Politicians Are Texting You So Much — And It's Only the Beginning". Time.
  17. ^ "2018 California General Election Results". Election Results.
  18. ^ "Meet Eleni". Eleni Kounalakis for California Lt. Governor.
  19. ^ Luna, Taryn (June 3, 2018). "Candidate, her father have spent millions to elect her California's lieutenant governor". The Sacramento Bee. Retrieved 12 November 2018.

External links[edit]

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
April Foley
United States Ambassador to Hungary
Succeeded by
Colleen Bell
Political offices
Preceded by
Gavin Newsom
Lieutenant Governor of California