Eleni Kounalakis Elected California’s First Female Lieutenant Governor

Democrat Eleni Kounalakis, a first-generation Greek-American, won the race to become the first female to be elected Lieutenant Governor of California.

With almost 90 percent of the ballots counted, Kounalakis has a double-digit lead over her opponent Ed Hernandez.

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.

In a recent interview with the Greek Reporter, the businesswoman and former U.S. ambassador said: “The American Dream is what made this country great, and we must keep this pathway open for everyone.”

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 firsthand that the American Dream is possible that it is truly what makes our country great,” she said.

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: