Eleni Kounalakis, candidate for California Lt Governor, is not the progressive she claims to be.

Eleni Kounalakis
Eleni Kounalakis at a joint training session of Hungarian troops and the Ohio National Guard

And someone wants to make sure we know it

Multi-millionaire real estate developer Elenis Kounalakis  has a long history of supporting corporate Democrats, including right wingers such as Congressmember Ami Bera.  She fundraised heavily for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, to the point of buying herself an ambassadorship to Hungary.  She moved on to be part of Hillary Clinton’s inner circle and an ally of David Brock and George Soros.  As she runs for California Lieutenant Governor, however, she has tried to market herself as a progressive, claiming she supports single payer healthcare and a lot of other causes dear to Berniecrats’ hearts.

Apparently, it’s all for show.  In a 2016 interview with Politico, Kounalakis called Bernie Sanders policies – things like single payer healthcare, tuition-free public colleges, strong environmental regulations and banning fracking, stopping the TPP and re-regulating Wall Street – “pie in the sky and impractical” while describing Bernie as a “fringe candidate”  who “is simply too radical and his ideas are just fiction.”

While it is possible that Kounalakis had a changed of heart, there is no indication that this has been the case.  Beyond claiming these “pie in the sky and impractical” ideas for herself, she seems to have done nothing to advance them, either by lobbying for them at the Legislature or by supporting progressive candidates that will actually champion them.

There is a good Berniecrat running for Lieutenant Governor in California, Gayle McLaughlin.  A current City Council member and former Mayor of Richmond, California, McLaughlin has a record of fighting big corporations, including Chevron, leading people-powered campaigns, instituting police reforms and passing rent control.  McLaughlin was endorsed by Bernie Sanders himself in past races, recognized by Bernie in his book “Our Revolution“,  and has been endorsed by numerous Our Revolution chapters in this race.  However, a former Green who became an NPP to vote for Sanders, McLaughlin is running for Lt Governor as a “no party preference” candidate.  This means that she is not eligible for the Democratic Party endorsement and that delegates to the  California Democratic Party Central Committee, cannot publicly support her or avow a preference for her.  I am thus doing neither.

Eleni Kounalakis’ quotes in the Politico article came to my attention through an anonymous e-mail from a throwaway account.  Given the timing – less than two months before the California Democratic Party’s convention, when delegates like I will vote on which candidates to endorse -, it seems likely that this e-mail came from one of her two Democratic rivals, State Senator Ed Hernandez or former Ambassador to Australia Jeff Bleich.

Ultimately, none of the Democratic candidates in the Lieutenant Governor’s race holds a progressive vision and none of them would do much to champion social justice and human rights.  Therefore, I recommend that my fellow delegates vote “no endorsement” on this race.  I will do that myself.


These are quotes from Kounalakis from the January 2016 Politico article.

“Bernie Sanders is a fringe candidate,” said Eleni Kounalakis, a major Clinton donor who served as ambassador to Hungary during Clinton’s time as Secretary of State.

“Not just because he is advocating for policies that arepie in the sky and impractical, but also because he has no proven ability to advance these fringe strategies. He’s been in Congress for decades and hasn’t been able to advance any of his fairly radical ideas.”

Kounalakis, who hosted Clinton at her San Francisco home for a $2,700-a-head fundraiser last November, said that “Sanders could very well come out of Iowa and New Hampshire looking like a viable candidate. But in terms of leading the country? He’s simply too radical and his ideas are just fiction.”

Just for fun, these are the quotes she gave to the same Politico writer about John Biden, when she feared Biden might run against Hillary instead.


“I’m very angry that it’s so difficult to defend her against lies. I’m worried we’re not accustomed  to having a woman candidate at this level, and we don’t have the language to fight sexist  attacks.”

“I’m concerned that the first bumpy road she hits — and there’s a man ready to knock her out.  I’ve seen this before.”


(Some concern that “if Clinton loses New Hampshire and Iowa, Biden could get in.”) NOT FOR ATTRIBUTION.

(“Colbert appearance looked staged. He’s launching a Presidential campaign out of grief? That doesn’t make any sense to me. I think he’s being opportunistic.”) NOT FOR ATTRIBUTION

12 Replies to “Eleni Kounalakis, candidate for California Lt Governor, is not the progressive she claims to be.”

  1. Margarita:

    I’d like to share a little more information. FIRST, here is my website: EleniForCA.com. My positions ARE progressive. But I’m not about labels. We need EVERONE’s help to fight Donald Trump’s efforts to destroy our democracy. 2. In the spirited 2016 campaign, I was fiercely loyal to my old boss at the State department. But that election is over, and we need to look to the next battle. 3. Bernie Sanders was 100 percent RIGHT on student debt. I’m grateful to him for blowing the doors off of this conversation, and am going to fight to bring down the cost of UC and CSU education for CA students. FINALLY, yep, that’s me target practicing with members of the US Marine Corps. I grew up in a rural part of California and guns were part of that experience – BUT I am a mom, and I’m fiercely supportive of strong gun laws in California.

    PS: If you want to have a longer conversation, email me at Eleni@EleniForCA.com.

    1. So which of Bernie’s policies did you find to be “pie in the sky and impractical”, “radical” and “fiction”? Or are you saying that in the midst of a campaign you will say things you don’t really mean?

      1. Most colleges are private – they will never be free. So repeatedly calling for “Free college for everyone” was, in my view, pie in the sky. As I said, now I’m VERY grateful to Senator Sanders for blowing open the conversation about student debt, and if elected, I’m going to do something about the outrageous cost of CSU and UC.

        Senator Sanders also called for replacing the Affordable Care Act with something entirely new. I was in favor of fixing ACA. Now we have Trump, and he’s trashing ACA, and taking health care away from children and families. It’s a nightmare. That is why I’m in favor of Senator Sander’s and Senator Harris’s bill – Medicare For All. But until they have the votes, they will have a hard time getting it done. SO, I’m in favor of a stand-alone system of universal health care for the state of California. I believe we can do it, and I believe a single payer system has to be at the center of the reform process.

        PS, this is really me. It’s a slow Thursday and I’m calling delegates across the state. I’M SO GRATEFUL to all the delegates and activists who are supporting my campaign, and our vision for a better, stronger California! Eleni

        1. Bernie never said “free college for everyone”. He was *very* specific in calling for “tuition-free public college”. https://berniesanders.com/issues/its-time-to-make-college-tuition-free-and-debt-free/

          It sounds like you still fundamentally oppose single-payer for all, even though the ACA, by its very nature – it was devised as a tool for enriching insurance companies -, has no price controls or realistic limits on deductibles and co-pays. This has led to millions of Americans either not being able to afford health insurance at all, or be forced to pay for it but be unable to utilize it as they can’t afford the deductibles/co-pays.

          And of course passing single payer will be tough. It was tough to pass all the legislation that created the safety belt for Americans – that which Bill Clinton worked hard to destroy. It was hard to create the public university system in California. But anyone can do what’s easy.

        2. Eleni, I introduced myself to you at a Democratic Central Committee meeting in San Luis Obispo. As a nurse and a board member of CNA, I asked you about your support for single payer, and specifically for SB 562. You dodged the question and then started talking in generalities about some of your accomplishments. It was a telling response. Disappointing.

        3. Oh dear God, self righteous all or nothing voters, are going to give republicans full control our state. 😒😒 Eleni you have my vote. 🙂

        4. Problem is you are speaking about privite colleges running for a GOvernment job. You have your inrests and positions incorrectly aligned.

  2. What about environmental protections???? This subject is the number 1 priority to me.
    I eagerly await your thoughts and convictions re this subject.

  3. The first encounter I ever had with you was a sponsored Facebook post in which you bragged about the amount of money your campaign had raised. You said nothing about your policies or what you wish to accomplish. I don’t care how much money your campaign has, I care what your policies are.
    . I find you untrustworthy and I will not vote for you.

  4. I’m not completely satisfied with her history, but Eleni has not taken hundreds of thousands from big pharma nor lobbyists. Ed Hernandez, has taken almost as much as Republican Assemblyman Brian Maienschein.

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