California seeks an eligible voter and current resident who is equally comfortable breaking ties in the state Senate, chairing the state’s commissions on land use and economic development, sitting on a half-dozen boards and councils, and temporarily assuming control of the executive branch during the governor’s absence from the state. Skilled multi-taskers are a plus!
We’re looking for someone who:
- Has a working understanding of the shipping and fishing industries, of offshore oil drilling and waterfront real estate development, and of any other activity that might occur along or floating on top the 4 million acres of various shorelines that the lieutenant governor will regulate as chair of the California State Lands Commission
- Can think big! As the chair of the California Commission for Economic Development, this person might have the opportunity to write an economic plan for the state of California. With luck, someone might even read it.
- Has a working understanding of state higher education policy, as the lieutenant governor will sit on the University of California Board of Regents and California State University Board of Trustees, which set education policies and approve tuition hikes
- Has the digital dexterity necessary to cut a ribbon upon request
- Able to succinctly describe the position when inevitably asked, “so, what exactly does the lieutenant governor do, anyway?”
While applicants are under no obligation to belong to the same political party as the governor-elect, the ideal candidate will be a team player. Replacing the governor’s judicial appointees during his or her trip out of state, while technically legal, could result in the governor suing the lieutenant governor.
This should be considered a temporary position. Of the previous 49 successful applicants, only 10 have been subsequently promoted to governor. So don’t get your hopes up.
While this race isn’t grabbing the headlines of the governor’s contest, it’s drawn some top talent and big dollars. Two former U.S. ambassadors, a state senator and California businessman are the top contenders.
State. Sen. Ed Hernandez won the most votes when California Democrats met this spring to endorse candidates in statewide races, but it wasn’t by much. He garnered 42 percent of the vote and Eleni Kounalakis, a Sacramento businesswoman and former ambassador to Hungary, won 41 percent. She’s making her first bid for elected office, and benefitting from a multi-million dollar contribution her father, developer Angelo Tsakopoulos, made to an independent expenditure committee supporting her. Jeff Bleich, a former ambassador to Australia and former special counsel to President Barack Obama, is also aggressively courting voters, and Republican Cole Harris has poured $1 million of his own money into his bid.
Meet the Applicants
Now an attorney at the global law firm Dentons, Jeff Bleich leads a team to help shape legal and public policy initiatives and protect consumers from cyber threats.
Although he’s never run for public office, he is a former U.S. ambassador to Australia and special counsel to President Barack Obama. He currently serves as the chair of the William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, an international educational exchange program.
The son of a dentist and a receptionist, he was born on a U.S. Army base in Germany, and he grew up in Connecticut attending public schools. He is a graduate of Amherst College, Harvard University and the University of California, Berkeley. He lives in the East Bay with his three children.
Bleich has picked up endorsements from The San Francisco Chronicle, the Sierra Club, former presidential candidate, Howard Dean, U.S. Reps. Ted Lieu, Jackie Speier, Adam Schiff, Ro Khanna and a handful of state Democratic lawmakers.
Recommended by: The San Francisco Chronicle, The Sierra Club and former presidential candidate Howard Dean
Ed Hernandez is an optometrist and a Democratic state senator who represents the San Gabriel Valley, an office he is termed out of this year.
He also served in the state Assembly from 2006 to 2010. In his bid for lieutenant governor, Hernandez has touted his medical background and is advocating for expanded access to health care and lower cost prescription drugs – two pillars of the Democratic platform. He’s also pushing for environmental protection and more affordable higher education.
Hernandez is a graduate of California State University, Fullerton, and he earned his optometry degree from Indiana University.
Recommended by: California Labor Federation, California Teachers Association, California Statewide Law Enforcement Association and the California Nurses Association.
Cole Harris of Pasedena is the founder of Symtech and Capital Stone, both private international investment firms.
On his campaign website, he pledges to bring his experience of fostering cooperation and consensus building to state government, an approach he argues will result in new jobs and opportunities for Californians. Top on his agenda are affordable housing, spending, jobs, and the economy.
He signaled his seriousness about the race when he dropped $1.5 million of his own money into his campaign in March.
As a a businesswoman and former U.S. ambassador to Hungary, Eleni Kounalakis says her experience in the private sector and as a diplomat can help grow California’s economy. She was a top fundraiser for former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
She is an advocate of universal health care and affordable housing, touting her experience in the family business building homes for middle-class families. Her father, Angelo Tsakopoulos, is one of Sacramento’s largest and most influential developers and is a major contributor to an independent expenditure committee supporting her bid.
Kounalakis graduated from Dartmouth College in 1989, and earned her MBA from the University of California, Berkeley. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and two sons.
Recommended by: U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, EMILY’s List and California Federation of Teachers, Equality California.
Backed by a socially progressive offshoot of Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign, Gayle McLaughlin says she would push for single-payer health care, tuition-free public college and more affordable housing.
She is running without party affiliation but she has a political history. She served as Green Party mayor of Richmond, where she promoted rent control and raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. She also touts a 75 percent reduction in homicides during her tenure from 2007 to 2014.
Shunning corporate donations, McLaughlin is touting her campaign for its grassroots model in support of a “people first” agenda. She is challenging her competitors to reject what she calls the excessive influence of special interests.
“All over California, people are telling me the excessive influence of corporations on our state politics as a major problem. That’s why I take no corporate money, I take no developer money and no law firm money,” she said.
Running on the Republican ticket in support of a free-market economy, former economics professor Lydia Ortega says she would be a leading voice on the University of California Board of Regents and the California State University Board of Trustees.
She says taxpayers shouldn’t continue to foot the increasing cost of higher education and would support clearing laws and regulations to make college affordable again. She says the state should immediately kill its high-speed rail project and believes business would do a better job than politicians to address social problems.
“I like corporations,” Ortega said. “The marketplace has done more to alleviate poverty than any other system and I want more corporations to be in California, not leave California.”
David R. Hernandez
Retired business owner
Strategist, programmer and entrepreneur.