Capitol Alert

Sacramento developer spending millions to elect daughter to office

Eleni Kounalakis' bid to become California lieutenant governor has received a $2.02 million boost from a familiar face: Angelo Tsakopoulos, her father.

Tsakopoulos, a prominent Sacramento real estate developer, contributed the money to an independent expenditure committee formed by the California Medical Association to support his daughter’s race against state Sen. Ed Hernandez, her key rival and an optometrist on the wrong side of his fellow health care providers.

Tsakopoulos is the only contributor to the committee thus far. The California Fair Political Practices Commission said there's nothing wrong with the financial arrangement. But the group, like all independent expenditure committees, is forbidden from coordinating its spending with the candidate or her campaign.

Kounalakis won the support of the powerful doctors in January over fellow Democrat Hernandez, who was first elected to the Assembly in 2006 and currently chairs the Senate Health Committee. Hernandez and the well-heeled association have clashed over his efforts to give more power to nurse practitioners, which he argues would help address a shortage of doctors and make health care more accessible to rural areas and other under served communities.

The California Medical Association and Tsakopoulus did not respond to separate requests for comment. Katie Merrill, a spokeswoman for Kounalakis, said committees "like this one by the California Medical Association happen all of the time," in an email.

"We are focused on the day-to-day activities of the campaign," Merrill said.

Kounalakis deems herself a businesswoman and economic advisor on the June ballot. She worked in the family business, AKT Development, for nearly two decades, eventually assuming the role of company president. Then-President Barack Obama appointed Kounalakis as the U.S. Ambassador to Hungary in 2010.

Thus far, Kounalakis has pulled in roughly $2.5 million to her candidate account, including $778,000 of her own money, according to campaign finance data as of last week. She's notched endorsements from U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, Equality California, NARAL Pro-Choice California and others.

Hernandez reports $2.2 million in contributions since 2016, according to the data. Major labor groups, such as the California Teachers Association and the Service Employees International Union California State Council, have backed him.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to reflect that Hernandez is not a medical doctor.