Your guide to the California lieutenant governor's election: Underwood Jacobs vs. Kounalakis

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Incumbent Democrat Eleni Kounalakis and Republican Angela Underwood Jacobs are vying for the seat of lieutenant governor, a position that sits on a range of state boards and commissions and steps in when the governor is out of state.

The lieutenant governor also acts as the president of the state Senate, casting a legislative vote in the case of a tie, and can be influential on higher education policy, with a role overseeing the University of California, California State University and community college systems.

While the elected office is often under-the-radar and ceremonial, governors of the past have used it as a steppingstone, including Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Who are the candidates?

Kounalakis' campaign for reelection includes a focus on climate justice and women's rights, while Underwood Jacobs is pushing for lower taxes and improving public safety as part of her platform.

After being sworn in as the first woman lieutenant governor of California in 2019, Kounalakis went on to become the first woman in state history to sign a bill into law to extend renter protections, stepping in for Newsom while he was traveling out of state earlier this year.

Having previously served as U.S. ambassador to Hungary under President Obama, Kounalakis' focus in her first term has centered on the state's international relations.

If reelected, she said in an interview with The Times that she would focus on making college in California "more accessible and affordable" and would continue to promote legislation regarding equity issues.

Kounalakis is favored in the race: She has outraised Underwood Jacobs by more than $4.6 million; led in the primary with 53% of the vote and has the endorsement of top Democratic officials in a state where a Republican has not been elected statewide since 2006.

Underwood Jacobs is a deputy mayor for the city of Lancaster, where she previously served as a City Council member.

She declined to respond to requests for an interview with The Times, but according to her website, if elected, her primary focus would include being "tough on crime" and boosting police support.

She has also vowed to reduce taxes in California and act as a "counter" to Newsom and the Democratic-ruled state Legislature.

Where they stand on homelessness

Kounalakis said if reelected, creating more affordable housing would be a priority, calling a current shortage of options the No. 1 contributing factor to the state's homelessness crisis.

Infrastructure would also be a priority, she said, adding that first responders and teachers need to be able to afford to live near the places they work in order for communities to thrive.

"I know the answer to California’s housing crisis is building more affordable homes for California families. Being able to afford a home matters to all families," she said. "As lieutenant governor, creating more affordable housing and strengthening our state’s infrastructure will be a priority. We need to continue to invest in our roads, highways, bridges, transit hubs and waterways. Building more affordable homes — and investing in the infrastructure that supports them — creates good-paying jobs and stimulates our economy."

Underwood Jacobs lists "reforms to truly solve homelessness" as a priority on her campaign website. She has called homelessness in California "out of control."

"Providing help to those in need is necessary; however, if individuals are unwilling to take the help offered, we cannot let them ruin parks, sensitive ecological areas, and public areas like streets," she said.

Where they stand on abortion

Kounalakis was a co-sponsor of Proposition 1, a measure on the November ballot that will let voters decide whether to guarantee access to abortions after the overturning of federal protections.

"California will continue to lead the nation to ensure that Californians, and those who come here to seek care, are able to access safe and legal abortions," she said. "Abortion is a decision that should be between a woman or pregnant person, and their healthcare provider."

Underwood Jacobs said in a Q&A survey administered by the San Diego Union Tribune that she supports letting voters decide on what the state should do about abortion.

"I support California voters making their voices heard and using the tools of direct democracy available to us that are not available to voters in many other states," she said. "Propositions, referendums and ballot measures allow the people, rather than politicians or unelected judges, to make decisions. I will always uphold the will of the voters and respect the ballot measure process."

Past coverage

L.A. Times Editorial Board Endorsements

The Times’ editorial page publishes endorsements based on candidate interviews and independent reporting. The editorial board operates independently of the newsroom — reporters covering these races have no say in the endorsements.

How and where to vote

Ballots will be in the mail to all 22 million registered voters in the state no later than Oct. 10. Californians can return ballots by mail, drop them at collection boxes or turn them in at voting centers. They can also cast ballots early at voting centers or wait until Nov. 8 to vote at their neighborhood polling places.

Californians can register to vote or check their status at

Follow more election coverage

California voters head to the polls Nov. 8 to vote for U.S. Senate, governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, controller, treasurer, attorney general, and races for U.S. representative in Congress, state senator and state Assemblymember. Local races include who will be the Los Angeles mayor and L.A. County sheriff. There are seven ballot propositions for voters to decide on the table.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.