BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — First thing’s first: Everything you vote for is important.
Your local city council, school board races, state and county prop measures all have a prominent and visible effect on your everyday life.
Statewide and local district offices and their officeholders’ roles can have very high visibility across the state, your city and sometimes across the country if they actively seek (or quietly consider) higher office. You’ll also see many, many ads for those offices and measures.
California’s Lieutenant Governor is just one of those offices that may not be highly visible, but has important state constitutional responsibilities.
California has had 50 lieutenant governors since 1849. Current Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis is the first woman to serve in the role.
Broadly speaking, you can think of the lieutenant governor as a Vice President to a President, but in California, gubernatorial candidates do not run with lieutenant governor candidates on the same ticket. The offices are voted on separately and it’s possible to have a governor and a lieutenant governor from different political parties.
In recent history, Republican governors George Deukmejian, Pete Wilson and Arnold Schwarzenegger had Democratic lieutenant governors. Republican Abel Maldonado served as lieutenant governor between late April 2010 and January 2011 when Jerry Brown was governor.
Under the California Constitution, the lieutenant governor is one of eight constitutionally statewide elected officers. Anyone elected as Lieutenant Governor can serve a maximum of two four-year terms.
And in the event of a vacancy, the lieutenant governor then serves as acting governor. The state constitution says the lieutenant governor serves when the governor is absent from the state, has a “temporary disability” or is impeached.
The lieutenant governor also serves as President of the California Senate and casts a vote in the event of a tie in that chamber.
The lieutenant governor also serves in a policy implementing role on several boards.
Lieutenant governors are voting members of the state’s university and college system boards — the Board of Regents of the University of California, the Board of Trustees of the California State University and the Board of Governors of the California Community Colleges.
A lieutenant governor, rotating with the State Controller, is also the chair of the three-member State Lands Commission that manages California’s and oversees control and leasing of 4 million acres of state land. That includes permitting or leasing land for offshore oil drilling and navigable waterways in the state.
In some cases the office of lieutenant governor can be a springboard for higher office. Ten lieutenant governors then became governor of California. Gavin Newsom was the most recent to do it.
This year, voters will choose between incumbent Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis (D) and Republican Angela E. Underwood Jacobs.
Kounalakis was the first woman elected as California lieutenant governor in 2018 and previously served as U.S. Ambassador to Hungary in the Obama administration. Kounalakis has already briefly served as acting governor when Gov. Gavin Newsom was traveling out of state and became the first woman to sign a bill into law.
Jacobs previously served as a city councilmember and deputy mayor of Lancaster. She also has years of experience in the banking industry, referring to herself as a community banker helping people live the “California Dream” on her website.