Newsom and Lt. Gov. Kounalakis Are out of Town, So Who's Running California?

Santiago Mejia/San Francisco Chronicle via AP, Pool, File

Democratic State Senator Toni Atkins is serving as the acting governor of California, as both Governor Gavin Newsom and Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis are out of town, CalMatters reporter Emily Hoeven tweeted Tuesday night.


“@toniatkins is currently serving as Acting Governor of California, with @GavinNewsom in Washington, D.C. and Lt. Gov. @EleniForCA in Greece visiting her family, I’ve learned,” Hoeven said.

Atkins is the president pro tempore of the California State Senate, which places her third in the line of succession to the governorship. She formerly served as the speaker of the California State Assembly from 2014 to 2016 after being elected to the legislative body in 2010, according to the legislature’s LGBTQ caucus website.

The acting governor was elected to represent the 39th State Senate District, which covers much of San Diego, in 2016 and has been serving as president pro tempore since 2018.


While Atkins will presumably not take any swift actions in her capacity as acting governor, one has to ask why both Newsom and Kounalakis decided to leave the state at overlapping times. Based on her resume, it’s clear that Atkins is not much different politically compared with both, but at least one of the statewide elected leaders should be around, as a matter of principle.

Then again, Democrats rule the roost over almost everything in the Golden State, so perhaps it’s a moot point. Still, Californians have a right to know who’s in charge.

Lastly, kudos to Hoeven for her amazing California scoops lately. I tip my virtual cap to her for holding California leaders accountable.


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