Eleni Kounalakis and Ed Hernandez advance to general election for lieutenant governor

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Updated 6/6/2018: this article has been updated with the candidates’ percent approval once 100 percent of the precincts were reporting. 

Out of the 11 candidates vying for the position of lieutenant governor for California, two will continue on to the general elections: Eleni Kounalakis and Ed Hernandez, both of whom are Democrats.

Kounalakis secured first place with 23.4 percent of the vote, while Hernandez came in second with 20.8 percent of the vote. Republican Cole Harris came in with a close third, receiving 18.3 percent of the vote.

Many candidates were political newcomers running for elected office for the first time. This crowded race included four Democrats, four Republicans, one Libertarian and two independent candidates.

The lieutenant governor is the president of the state Senate and is first in line to succeed the governor. They also sit on most state commissions and agencies, as well as the UC Board of Regents, the California State University Board of Trustees and the California State Lands Commission.

“People look at the lieutenant governor job as a place to land after they’ve termed out of another office or a place to launch from because they want another office,” said Democratic candidate Jeff Bleich, who received 9.3 percent of the vote. “But it has a lot of responsibility.”

Kounalakis graduated from the Haas School of Business in 1992 with a master’s degree in business administration. She worked in her family’s housing development firm for 18 years before she was appointed as the U.S. ambassador to Hungary by former president Barack Obama.

Kounalakis’ platforms range from increasing affordable housing and college to universal broadband.

Kounalakis also has a focus on making California’s voice known internationally, highlighting the state’s stance on the Paris climate agreement and technological leadership.

“From our dedication to fighting climate change, to our leadership in innovation and technology, California has a more important role to play than ever,” Kounalakis’ website reads.

With four years in the state Assembly and eight in the state Senate, Hernandez has a history in state politics. Before being elected to the Assembly in 2006, he was president of the California State Board of Optometry, and his background in health is reflected in his platform.

“As a healthcare provider, Senator Hernandez has spent his time in the legislature advocating for more affordable and accessible healthcare for Californians,” Hernandez’s website reads.

Within his health care focuses, Hernandez emphasized his authoring of legislation to raise the smoking age in California from 18 to 21 in 2016 and to address the state’s shortage of primary care providers in certain regions.

Hernandez’s platform also focuses on improving the Californian education system, and he noted on his website that he has backed and helped write multiple proposed legislations that would increase K-12 and higher education funds.

Most of those running touched on President Donald Trump’s election as a driving force in their campaigns. Bleich said the election was a “real gut kick” and that it made him realize that instead of complaining about the government he had, he should run to create a better one.

“If you don’t like the government you have, then you lace up your shoes and run,” Bleich said.

Contact Madeleine Gregory and Sakura Cannestra at [email protected].