These are the candidates for California governor in 2026 – Orange County Register

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Although we’re still in the throes of the 2024 election cycle, eager candidates are already lining up to vie for governor of California in 2026.

Gov. Gavin Newsom is term-limited and cannot run for reelection. And if the handful of people who have already declared their candidacies is any indication, expect the field vying to be the state’s next chief executive to be a large one.

Here’s a look at who has declared their candidacies thus far. We’ll keep this list updated as more people announce.

Toni Atkins (D)

Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, of San Diego, speaks on the floor of the Senate in Sacramento, Calif., Friday, Sept. 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, of San Diego, speaks on the floor of the Senate in Sacramento, Calif., Friday, Sept. 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Sen. Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, launched her gubernatorial bid in January. The former leader of the state Senate, Atkins would make history as the first woman or openly LGBTQ+ governor of California.

Originally from Virginia, Atkins is a former mayor of San Diego and served in the Assembly where she was the speaker. She was elected to the state Senate in 2016.

Eleni Kounalakis (D)

Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis at a CSU Board of Trustees meeting in Long Beach on Wednesday, September 13, 2023. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)
Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis at a CSU Board of Trustees meeting in Long Beach on Wednesday, September 13, 2023. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis was early out of the gate to declare her intentions to run for governor, announcing in April 2023. If elected, she would be the first woman to helm California — and she’s already the first woman to sign a law when serving as acting governor while Newsom was out of town.

Kounalakis was sworn in as the lieutenant governor in 2019, becoming the first woman to hold the post. She is a former ambassador to Hungary, serving in the Obama administration, and was president of housing development firm AKT Development before her foray into public service.

Tony Thurmond (D)

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond hosts a homeless education summit for students and educators on Thursday, Nov. 9, 2023, at the Los Angeles County Office of Education in Downey. (Photo by Howard Freshman, Contributing Photographer)
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond hosts a homeless education summit for students and educators on Thursday, Nov. 9, 2023, at the Los Angeles County Office of Education in Downey. (Photo by Howard Freshman, Contributing Photographer)

In an announcement largely drawing on his upbringing, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond jumped into the campaign ring in September 2023.

He’s helmed the state Department of Education since 2019, having worked as an educator and social worker prior to elected office. Thurmond has also served in the state Assembly and on the Richmond City Council.

Betty Yee (D)

Then the state controller, Betty Yee speaks during the Table of Dignity Unveiling Ceremony in Costa Mesa on Friday, August 25, 2017. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)
Then the state controller, Betty Yee speaks during the Table of Dignity Unveiling Ceremony in Costa Mesa on Friday, August 25, 2017. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

Betty Yee, vice chair of the California Democratic Party and a former state controller, launched her campaign for governor in March, vying to become the first woman serving in the position.

A San Francisco native, Yee served as former Gov. Gray Davis’ budget director and on the State Board of Equalization. She was elected to serve as the controller, essentially the state’s chief fiscal officer, in 2014.

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