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.

FOR ATTRIBUTION:

“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.”

NOT FOR ATTRIBUTION, BUT YOU CAN USE AS “ONE SUPPORTER”

(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

California is having statewide elections, Who Can Progressives Support?

We are less than a year away before the June election for California statewide officers, and I think that as a movement, we probably should get behind specific candidates.

As usual, our choices will fall between less-than-perfect but hopefully acceptable candidates with an actual chance to win and protest candidates, who have the right values but lack the experience for the job and/or the ability to mount a serious campaign.  This post is about the first kind. I totally respect the right of people to vote for the latter, in particular when there are no acceptable choices (and what’s acceptable will vary from person to person).  Not all of these candidates are necessarily those we might want to support as a movement, however, and listing here does not imply my personal support for them.

Delaine Eastin, candidate for Governor

Governor: There are four candidates that have a serious chance at winning, and among these I’m supporting Delaine Eastin, and I’d hope other Berniecrats would do as well.  Eastin is a former Assemblywoman and State Superintendent of Education, fully committed to funding and improving the education of our children. She’s calling for a moratorium on charter schools, for a free public college education and she supports SB 562, universal healthcare. After meeting her and speaking with her at length, I fully believe she is an old fashioned FDR Democrat who believes government can and should do large social projects to improve people’s lives.

The other three contenders seem to be in it for themselves. Villaraigosa calls single payer “snake oil“, Gavin Newsom will tell anyone what the want to hear and then do what business interests want and Chiang won’t take any poistion on practically anything.

Gayle McLaughlin, candidate for Lt Governor

Lt Governor: Gayle McLaughlin has been called the Bernie Sanders of Richmond and, if elected, she will be the Bernie Sanders of California. This former Mayor of Richmond is an anti-corporate activist, who has taken on Chevron head on and won, and who is committed to all the same principles than Bernie Sanders is.  She is the candidates progressives will back.

Other candidates for Lt General include State Senator Ed Hernandez, a well funded corporate Democrat who heads the Senate’s Health Committee and was endorsed by the nurse’s union after allowing SB 562, the single payer bill, to get through, and a trio of millionaires on vanity races.  Real estate developer Eleni Kounalakis, was a bundler for Hilary Clinton and Barak Obama, her contributions to the latter bought her an ambassadorship to Hungary.  Physician Asif Mahmood was also a bundler for Clinton and international corporate attorney Jeff Bleich was ambassador to Australia under Obama. All four of them are Democrats.

Ruben Major, Berniecrat candidate for Secretary of State

Secretary of State:  Incumbent Alex Padilla spent the 2016 primaries campaigning for Hillary Clinton and then oversaw primary elections filled with a multitude or problems, including voters finding their registration had been changed and they could no longer vote in the Democratic primary, voters being given the wrong ballots or not getting proper instructions on how to vote.  After the primary, Padilla did not investigate these issues or make a plan for fixing them.

He is being challenged by Berniecrat paramedic/business owner/blogger Ruben Major, who might be a protest candidate worth voting for.  He only announced a couple of weeks ago and I will endeavor to interview him and report back.

Dave Jones, candidate for Attorney General

Attorney General:  The choice here is between appointed incumbent AG Xavier Becerra and California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones.  Becerra supports the death penalty, which goes against the Democratic Party platform.  That makes him a nonstarter, as far as progressives go.  Dave Jones opposes the death penalty, has a record of prosecuting moneyed interests as insurance commissioner, is committed to criminal justice reform and has no interest in pursuing higher office, thus he will dedicate himself fully to this office.  He has not, as yet, committed to not accepting money form law enforcement interest, however.  He has been gaining momentum with Berniecrats/progressives.

Treasurer: This race appears to be between Assemblymember Mike Gatto and Board of Equalization member Fiona Ma.  I know almost nothing about either candidate’s record, but I will endeavor to learn about them.  If you have experience with either candidate, comment about them.

Controller:  Incumbent Betty Yee is running unopposed, so far. Yee is probably the most progressive statewide elected official, which isn’t saying much.

Insurance commissioner:  So far, State Senator Ricardo Lara seems to be the only candidate for this seat.  Lara can be praised for introducing SB 562, the single-payer bill, but activists are disappointed he hasn’t done more to fight for it since Assembly speaker Anthony Rendon shelved it.

Superintendent of Schools: The race here, so far, is between Assemblymember Tony Thurmond and charter school executive Marshall Tuck.   Thurmond is a progressive and I endorsed him when he first ran for Assembly, but he’s been steering towards corporate interests lately (he was a delegate for Hilary Clinton).

(Note: This article has and will be updated as more information becomes available).