Lt. Governor Eleni Kounalakis launches Democratic PAC to mobilize voters on abortion rights

California Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis during a news conference to address sea level rise along the city's waterfront in San Francisco, Friday, Jan. 26, 2024. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
California Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis launched a PAC this week to mobilize Democratic voters and help retake control of the House. (Eric Risberg / Associated Press)

California Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis publicly launched a new independent political committee to mobilize "pro-choice" California voters and help to defeat Donald Trump and take back Democratic control of the House of Representatives.

Californians for Choice, which as a super PAC is allowed to raise unlimited sums from donors for independent expenditures on races, plans to recruit volunteers across the state to make calls and knock on doors in key congressional contests, according to a statement from the committee.

The PAC will focus on defeating Reps. John Duarte (R-Modesto), Mike Garcia (R-Santa Clarita), David Valadao (R-Hanford) and Ken Calvert (R-Corona) and replacing them with Democrats, as well as retaining Democratic control of Irvine Rep. Katie Porter's House seat, where Democratic State Sen. Dave Min is competing against Republican Scott Baugh. Instead of running for reelection, Porter made a bid for the U.S. Senate but lost in the March primary.

Read more: Six California House races that could help determine control of Congress

The PAC launched with a statewide 30-second ad starring Kounalakis, who speaks directly to the camera in jeans and a blazer while headlines about abortion restrictions blare in the background.

“I’m building an army to fight back, stand up for choice and stand up for women,” Kounalakis says in the ad.

Californians for Choice has placed an initial ad buy just over seven figures across digital and TV, according to David Beltran, a strategist working with the PAC.

The powerful state politician and former U.S. ambassador to Hungary has already been running in the 2026 gubernatorial race for more than a year, and the ad will undoubtedly help improve her name recognition and burnish her image as a leader on abortion rights.

With Newsom termed out in 2026, the race to replace him is already crowded more than a year out, with California Supt. of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, Sen. Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) and former state Controller Betty Yee among those who have already thrown their hats in the ring. State Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta has also said he’s considering a gubernatorial bid, but hasn’t officially joined the race.

Read more: Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis announces early bid in 2026 California governor's race

Kounalakis is the daughter of self-made Sacramento real estate magnate Angelo Tsakopoulos; she and her family have spent generously on their political priorities in the past, including Kounalakis’ lieutenant governor’s race.

Kounalakis was first elected as lieutenant governor in 2018 and reelected in 2022. The post is a relatively under-the-radar office that's often used a launching pad for the governor's mansion. Both Newsom and former Gov. Gray Davis previously served as lieutenant governor.

Paperwork to create the Californians for Choice PAC was filed with the Federal Election Commission in mid-April, according to FEC records.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.