Lieutenant Governor’s Race is a Political Chess Match

Candidates Sen. Ed Hernandez and Eleni Kounalakis

One of the most hotly contested races this year is the race for Lieutenant Governor.

Gavin Newsom once called the lieutenant governor’s office “a largely ceremonial post . . . with no real authority and no real portfolio.”

Of course, that hasn’t stopped him or the other aspiring politicians who have been Lieutenant Governor from hoping it would springboard them to the Governor’s office.

It’s in that spirit that the candidates for Lieutenant Governor gathered recently for debate hosted by the Sacramento Press Club.

Unlike the recent Press Club debate of the Attorney General candidates, this debate skewed left, with 3 Democrats and 1 far-left independent candidate on the state (and 1 lonely Republican).

The liberal candidates played coalition politics, trying to best position themselves to make the top 2 in November.  Each promoted themselves as the best one to fight President Trump, while staking out  claims to vote-rich constituencies.

For example, businesswoman Eleni Kounalakis appealed to students with a pledge to oppose any attempt to raise tuition at UC and CSU read my prior blog to learn more about rising tuition).  She also touted her support from women’s groups and announced an endorsement from Nancy Pelosi.

State Senator Ed Hernandez played up his working-class roots and his strong ties to the Latino community.  He also mentioned that he continues to see patients at his optometry practice.  Optometrists are a well-organized, politically active group.

Attorney Jeff Bleich noted his legal work on cases dear to Democratic constituencies, such as “don’t ask, don’t tell”, affirmative action, and guns.  He also touted his support from environmental organizations.

Independent Gayle McLaughlin, the former mayor of Richmond, spoke of her “people’s campaign”, which is essentially the Bernie Sanders platform – single-payer, impose several new taxes to fund big government programs, and ending the “corporate” influence in politics.

Moderator Pamela Wu and Candidate Jeff Bleich

One other interesting note – the campaign is also a battle of ambassadors – with Democrat candidates Eleni Kounalakis (Hungary) and Jeff Bleich (Australia) both having served as ambassadors appointed by President Obama.

Candidates Gayle McLaughlin and Lydia Ortega

An interesting divide was on single-payer health care.  All claim to support it, with only McLaughlin doing so enthusiastically.  Kounalakis said she’s for universal health care and endorsed the Bernie Sanders bill that has no chance of passing Congress, but not SB 562 – the liberal litmus test.  Hernandez said he voted for SB 562 and stressed his credentials on the Senate Health Committee.  Bleich had the most interesting take on the issue.  While praising single-payer, he opposes SB 562 because no one has figured out how to pay for it.  He said that if Democrats accuse Republicans of voodoo economics, then they must have their own economics in order when crafting proposals like single-payer.

Republican candidate Lydia Ortega, a professor of economics at San Jose State University, seemed like a fish out of water every time she rose to defend free-market economics and oppose bigger government.  She also stressed her background as an economist and in higher education, chiding the other candidates for not proposing realistic solutions.

Tim Anaya is the communications director for the Pacific Research Institute.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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