Fmr. Ambassador Eleni Kounalakis Talks to TNH about Primary Win

June 10, 2018

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Former Ambassador Eleni Kounalakis moves on to the next round in her bid for Lieutenant Governor of California with her win in the primary on June 5. Amb. Kounalakis took the top spot among the 11 Democrats vying for the vice-executive position in the state. The top two candidates, Kounalakis and State Senator Ed Hernandez, continue on in the race. In spite of her busy campaign schedule, Kounalakis spoke with The National Herald about her victory.

She told TNH, “I am so proud of the grassroots campaign that we have run across the state – with county captains in almost every county helping us get out the vote. When I launched this campaign, I pledged to go to all 58 counties to truly listen to the major concerns of people in every pocket of the state. One thing became clear: Californians are ready to fight to protect our California values and to make sure our economy works for everyone.”

Kounalakis continued, “Californians showed us they want a Lieutenant Governor who will fight to protect our coastline, make higher education, housing, and healthcare affordable, and fight for equality in the workplace. And when we win this in November, I will be a champion for all Californians and ensure we keep the pathway of the American Dream open to more families.”

As noted in her biography, Kounalakis “was raised the proud daughter of an immigrant father who started out as a farmworker, and she believes in the values of hard work, education and political activism.”

Married to veteran journalist Markos Kounalakis with whom she has two teenaged sons Neo and Eon, the former U.S. Ambassador to Hungary in a previous TNH interview noted that her family is from “outside of Tripoli, Rizes in Arcadia and my husband’s family is from Chania.”

When asked if she always wanted to go into politics, Kounalakis told TNH, “I was raised in it. My earliest jobs in high school, growing up in Sacramento, were at the capitol, I interned in Washington, DC. I went to a girls’ school for high school, and dressed up as Walter Mondale and debated a girl dressed up as Ronald Reagan. My very first paying job in my life was at the California Democratic Party in 1992, I worked for Phil Angelides and it was a big election. California turned blue and we haven’t looked back.”

“The Lieutenant Governor,” she noted, “has an important role to play in the economy and in higher education because you sit on the board of the CSU and the UC, and this is very personal for me because my father went to Sacramento State University and he paid his way through on a waiter’s salary and I look at the story of my family, my grandmother in Greece never learned to read or write. She let her son go to America to work in the fields at age 14 and her granddaughter was sent back to Europe by the President of the United States as an American Ambassador and the pivot point was Sacramento State on a waiter’s salary. Ours is an extreme example, but there are millions of families in California that have traveled the same route, so we need to make absolutely sure that we’re able to offer that education at the CSU, the UC, and our community colleges, not just to be comparably less expensive than private institutions, but that they are within reach of any Californian who wants to pursue that education.” Kounalakis is also the author of Madam Ambassador, Three Years of Diplomacy, Dinner Parties and Democracy in Budapest, published in 2015 by The New Press.

More information is available online at: www.eleniforca.com.


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