SACRAMENTO — California Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis said Monday she is running for governor in 2026, the first major candidate to announce a bid for an election nearly four years away.
Kounalakis, a Democrat, hopes to become the first woman elected governor in state history. She’s already the first woman to be elected to the state’s second-highest job. And last year, she made history as the first woman to sign a law in California when she filled in for Gov. Gavin Newsom while he was traveling out of state.
Newsom, a Democrat, is only four months into his second four-year term as governor, having easily won reelection in November. It’s somewhat rare for major candidates to announce their candidacies so early in an election cycle. But it does have some advantages.
California is one of the most costly places to run a statewide political campaign because it is home to some of the nation’s largest and most expensive media markets. By announcing her candidacy this early, it gives Kounalakis a head start on raising the massive amount of cash it takes to run an effective campaign.
Kounalakis is a former president of a real estate development company and served as ambassador to Hungary under President Barack Obama.
“As the proud daughter of an immigrant who came to California with nothing, my family owes everything to this state,” Kounalakis said in a news release. “I’m running for Governor to ensure all Californians have the opportunities we’ve had.”