Eleni Kounalakis, Ed Hernandez compete as final candidates to replace Gavin Newsom as lieutenant governor

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Eleni Kounalakis and Ed Hernandez will face off Nov. 6 in the race for lieutenant governor of California to replace current Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom in the upcoming November election.

According to Kounalakis and Hernandez, both of their platforms focus on higher education affordability. Kounalakis added that alongside higher education, her platform is focused on economic advancement, environmental protection and “women in the workplace.” Meanwhile, Hernandez’s platform emphasizes health care access and immigrants’ rights.

Kounalakis said she will build more affordable housing and create more well-paying jobs to prepare the state economy for impending changes.

She added that she will ensure California’s global leadership in fighting climate change while protecting the state’s coasts — especially from the Trump administration’s offshore oil drilling — and “fight for gender parity in leadership,” which includes protection from sexual harassment.

I’m the daughter of an immigrant, and I have walked the pathway of the American Dream,” Kounalakis said in an email. “My grandmother in Greece never learned to read or write. She let my father come to America at the age of 14, penniless, alone, knowing no English, to work in the fields of California as a farmworker.”

Hernandez said he will fight the health care provider shortage, oppose repeals of health care reform and find ways to expand coverage. He added that for immigrants, he will support Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, policies that prevent state and local agencies from becoming “de facto immigration agents” and federal pathways to citizenship.

Hernandez’s campaign site said he is running to “make the California Dream a reality for all our working class families throughout this state.” According to the website, he has spent his life improving the health care of his community by giving working families in the San Gabriel Valley quality eye care.

“While there are those who believe the lt. Governor has limited power, I believe this office provides a unique and instrumental pulpit from which to enact change, but it must be used effectively,” Hernandez said in an email.

Kounalakis said she is running to lead the state “to a better, stronger future.” She added that if she wins the election, she will “bring down a high, hard glass ceiling” as the first woman lieutenant governor.

Hernandez said his qualifications include a  “proven record of creating positive change” for working families. According to Hernandez, he has fought Big Tobacco and Big Pharma, resulting in an increase of the smoking age to 21 and the creation of landmark legislation that included transparency laws to help lower drug prices.

Kounalakis noted that she ran the embassy of Hungary as ambassador under Obama and said she knows how to improve California’s economy because of 20 years of successful business experience. Kounalakis served on California’s First 5 Commission, the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Autism and the state’s Advisory Council for International Trade and Investment.

“The Lieutenant Governor is in many ways a convener of people with different backgrounds and views,” Kounalakis said in an email. “As a diplomat, that’s what I did and what I do all the time.”

Kounalakis is endorsed by former president Barack Obama, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California, and Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland. Hernandez is endorsed by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles.

Newsom is stepping down from his position as lieutenant governor to run for California governor. The lieutenant governor sits on the commission for economic development, the UC Board of Regents and the California State University Board of Trustees and is one of three members on the State Lands Commission, Kounalakis said.

Yao Huang is the lead research and ideas reporter. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @Yhoneplus.