Kounalakis endorses Salas, Hurtado against Valadao

In a district that will be heavily targeted by Democrats, Eleni Kounalakis is effectively rooting for both teams, not picking one Democrat over another.

Lieutenant Gov. Eleni Kounalakis is not quite taking a stand in an important Congressional race for Democrats in the south Valley. 

Monday, Kounalakis endorsed both State Sen. Melissa Hurtado (D–Bakersfield) and former Assm. Rudy Salas (D–Bakersfield) for Congressional District 22. 


The big picture: Hurtado and Salas are both trying to outlast each other and take out Rep. David Valadao (R–Hanford), flipping a seat from blue to red in what is typically one of the most highly-contested elections in the nation. 

  • Kounalakis, though, is not picking a side, instead calling both Democrats proven leaders. 
  • Former Fresno City Councilman Chris Mathys is also taking another stab at the district, running as a Republican after nearly placing second in last year’s primary. 
  • Kounalakis, who has served as California’s Lieutenant Governor under Gov. Gavin Newsom since 2019, is running for governor in 2026 when Newsom will be termed out, announcing her candidacy three years ahead of time. 

What they’re saying: “As the youngest Latina elected to the Senate, Melissa Hurtado has fought for clean and reliable water supplies, healthcare access, reproductive freedom and expanded educational opportunity,” Kounalakis said of Hurtado. “She is a proven leader, and I am proud to endorse Melissa Hurtado for Congress.” 

  • Kounalakis said of Salas, “Rudy Salas is a proven leader, who knows how to get things done. In Congress, Rudy will fight for California and the Valley to protect our seniors, lower costs for life-saving medicines, and protect a woman’s right to choose. I am proud to endorse him for Congress.” 
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