Hillary Clinton Backs Eleni Kounalakis for California Governor

After her friend and former boss lost the presidential race in 2016, Democrat Eleni Kounalakis remembers Hillary Clinton urging women to run for public office.

It was a pivotal moment that inspired Kounalakis to run for California lieutenant governor in 2018, a position that is now the basis for her recently launched campaign to become the state’s first female governor.

That effort will get a boost Thursday when Kounalakis is expected to announce an endorsement from Clinton, who says she wants to help her friend “break California’s glass ceiling.”

“Eleni has proven to be a fierce leader,” Clinton said in a statement lauding Kounalakis on education, the economy and abortion access. “That’s the California way, and in 2026, that will be the Eleni Kounalakis way.”

With Gov. Gavin Newsom termed out of office after 2026, the governor’s race is expected to draw a large field of contenders hoping to lead the nation’s largest state. Democrat Betty Yee, the former state controller, has said she plans to run. Democratic Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta has said he is considering it.

But Kounalakis was the first to formally launch a gubernatorial campaign when she announced it last month. Now she is following up with high-profile endorsements that also include support from California’s former U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, another barrier breaker. Boxer and Sen. Dianne Feinstein in 1992 became the first women elected to represent California in the Senate.

“Endorsements like that show that she’s got the traditional party luminaries who are women on her side,” said Kim Nalder, a political science professor at California State University, Sacramento. “Those are important endorsements.”

Although Kounalakis is unknown to many voters, Nalder said, endorsements from well-known Democrats such as Clinton and Boxer will help her build credibility with the state’s overwhelmingly Democratic electorate.

“The fact that this is happening relatively early shows that she’s probably making moves to try to box out other potential candidates,” Nalder said.

The connections between Kounalakis and Clinton go back decades. Kounalakis’ father, Sacramento developer Angelo Tsakopoulos, was a major donor to President Clinton who attended a state dinner and stayed overnight at the White House in 1997.

Kounalakis helped raise money for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign and then worked for her when Clinton was secretary of State and Kounalakis was ambassador to Hungary. In 2016, Kounalakis was a California co-chair of Clinton’s presidential campaign, helping raise money and advising on foreign policy.

“I could go all the way back to 1992 when Hillary Clinton first inspired me,” Kounalakis said Wednesday in an interview with The Times.

She recalled the flap that year when Clinton said she “could have stayed home and baked cookies” but instead pursued a legal career.

“Even though she had to apologize for the comment, for many years after, for a kid like me, I took it as permission to want to go out and do bigger things in the world,” Kounalakis said.

The inspiration she drew from Clinton developed over the years and became transformative after she lost the presidential race to Donald Trump.

“That catastrophic election impacted me as it did so many women,” Kounalakis said. “When Hillary stood up and said, ‘Women of America, go run for office,’ I was one of thousands of women, record numbers of women across the country, who stood up and ran.”

Click here to read the full article in LA Times

Travis Allen Trounces His Republican Opponents In Fundraising

Republican Travis Allen announced that between July 1, 2017 and Dec. 31, 2017, his campaign for Governor of California raised $368,826.85 from 3,096 individual contributors. Compared to his nearest Republican opponent, John Cox, the Allen campaign raised 21% more and had 230 more donors in the period.

Travis Allen’s campaign for Governor has now received donations from more supporters than any Republican candidate for Governor.

These numbers continue the good news for the Allen campaign. The most recent SurveyUSA poll showed Allen beating the next two Republican candidates combined.

Additionally, in the month of January, the Allen campaign has already received the support of approximately 2,000 new contributors.

Poll: Republican gubernatorial candidates rank 2nd and 3rd behind Democrat Newsom

kevin-faulconerGood news for California Republicans: In a field of nine candidates for the 2018 gubernatorial race, they have two of the top three names, according to a poll released Tuesday.

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Ashley Swearengin, the termed-out mayor of Fresno, placed just behind Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom in a poll of registered voters taken prior to last week’s presidential election, conducted by The Field Poll and the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley.

Newsom drew 23 percent to Faulconer’s 16 percent and Swearengin’s 11 percent, with six prominent Democrats trailing in the single digits. Although anything can change in politics, Faulconer said early this year that he won’t run for governor, and Tim Clark, a political consultant to Swearengin, told CalWatchdog on Tuesday he didn’t “expect her to run.”

Why it matters

Having been shut out of the U.S. Senate race after the June primary, thanks in part to the state’s relatively new system where the top two candidates advance regardless of party, Republicans will need to field a strong candidate at the top of the ticket in 2018 to help with fundraising and turnout for down ballot races and to show they can still compete in statewide elections.

In addition to legislative races, where Republicans will either be fighting off a Democratic supermajority by the narrowest of margins or trying to add a little bit of a buffer — the few races from last week that the Democratic supermajority hinges on have not yet been decided as the votes are still being counted — the 2018 gubernatorial election will elect statewide officers.

CA GOP Chairman Jim Brulte told CalWatchdog on Tuesday that the party was still focused on the outcome of last week’s election, but added the party was beginning to turn to 2018.

“I believe we will have strong candidates for a number of statewide offices,” Brulte said.

Challenges for Republicans

Both parties have struggled with a decline in voter registration for years, although the trend has been much more severe for Republicans, dropping from 36.4 percent of the electorate in 1996 to 26 percent late last month. Democrats in that time declined from 47.9 percent to 44.9 percent, but enjoyed a surge in registration over this campaign cycle that led to a slight uptick.

Whichever Republican candidates decide to jump into the race, they will be starting way behind Newsom and state Treasurer John Chiang, who have both been running and fundraising for awhile. As of September, Newsom had $6.3 million in his campaign account, while Chiang had $2.2 million as of August.

Both Faulconer and Swearengin benefited heavily in the poll from party identification — both dropped to single digits when polled on just name ID alone. But it’s still very early in the race, said John J. Pitney, Jr., a Roy P. Crocker professor of politics at Claremont McKenna College.

“These results reflect name recognition and partisan identification more than serious evaluation of the candidates,” Pitney said. “The good news for Republicans is that, although Faulconer and Swearengin are not running ahead, they have a chance of making the top two. The bad news is that the Democrats will be able to run well-funded campaigns.”

Money plays the odds 

Pitney pointed to the 2014 Republican gubernatorial candidate, Neel Kashkari, who struggled with fundraising despite having contacts throughout the business and financial community from his time as an investment banker and top Treasury Department official.

In 2014, Kashkari raised only slightly more than Newsom has now two years out, largely due to being seen as not having a strong shot of winning (although he was running against a popular incumbent, Gov. Jerry Brown).

“Look at Kashkari,” Pitney said. “He had extensive contacts in the business/financial community, but could not fill his warchest because nobody thought he could win.”

Other candidates

Antonio Villaraigosa, the former mayor of Los Angeles, and Delaine Eastin, the former state superintendent of public instruction, have both announced their intentions to run. Eastin was not included in Tuesday’s poll, while Villaraigosa drew 6 percent. Chiang was near the bottom at 2 percent.

This piece was originally published by CalWatchdog.com