Kounalakis Fights to Become California’s First Elected Female Lieutenant Governor

A Greek-American businesswoman and former U.S. ambassador running for office in California has told Greek Reporter: “The American Dream is what made this country great, and we must keep this pathway open for everyone.”

Eleni Kounalakis, a first-generation Greek-American, is a Democratic candidate in the Nov. 6 race to become the first female to be elected Lieutenant Governor of California.

Elected for a maximum of two four-year terms the lieutenant governor either sits on, or appoints representatives to, many of California’s regulatory bodies.

It is an important role as the U.S. state was revealed this week to be world’s fifth-largest economy, passing that of many sovereign countries, including the United Kingdom.

California’s GDP grew $127 billion between 2016 and 2017 to more than $2.7 trillion, according to U.S. federal data.

It is this huge wealth which Kounalakis says must be managed wisely. On the economy she told Greek Reporter:

“We must do what we can to keep growth as strong as possible but also look at what underpins it and the type of jobs that are being created in this state, because like other parts of the country, middle-class families are still struggling to come back from the 2008 recession wand working families are finding it harder and harder to enter into the middle class.”

Although her Greek immigrant father, Angelo Tsakopoulos, started working as a farm laborer, he managed to become one of the largest real estate developers in Sacramento, CA. Her grandmother never learned to read or write. From this background, Kounalakis pursued a successful business and political career in California, including being appointed as U.S. ambassador to Hungary by President Barack Obama in 2010.

“I know first-hand that the American Dream is possible that it is truly what makes our country great,” she said.

A mother of two, Kounalakis is also running in the California Statewide Direct Primary Election on June 5.

Asked what role her Greek heritage played in shaping her views, she said: “As Greek-Americans, the culture that founded democracy in Ancient Greece so many thousands of years ago, we know you have to have an invested citizenship, that everybody needs to be able to work hard and earn a piece of the pie.”

Watch the whole Greek Reporter interview here: