Democrats gambled when they bet all their chips on Gov. Gavin Newsom, discouraging any other big names in the party from joining the Republican-led recall.
As recently as a few months ago, when most polls predicted Newsom would easily hold onto his seat during the Sept. 14 recall, that bet looked pretty safe.
But the gamble also might have a downside. While recent surveys show many voters are still undecided on the recall, among those who have made up their minds the idea is now viable, with some polls showing Newsom being kicked out and others showing voters evenly split.
And because of their party’s strategy, Democratic voters don’t any experienced left-leaning politicians or other widely known figures to choose for Question Two: If Newsom is voted out, who should replace him?
A few days ago, centrist Democrat Kevin Paffrath was just another name on the 46-candidate list. But a poll released Wednesday by SurveyUSA not only showed a slim majority of voters willing to recall Newsom, it also showed 29-year-old Paffrath as the No. 1 contender to replace him — beating everybody in the field, including a 4-point lead over top-ranked GOP candidate, talk show host Larry Elder.
Now Paffrath, a real estate investor from Ventura, who has built a large following on YouTube with videos that teach people how to build wealth, said he’s ready to extend an offer to Newsom. If the governor agrees to a live, two-hour debate, Paffrath will donate $1 million of his own money to a charity of Newsom’s choice.
Paffrath also is pitching ideas for what he’d do if he rises from political obscurity to get the top political job in America’s biggest state.
He has a five-point plan to tackle homelessness, crime, education, affordable housing and traffic during the year he might have as governor before the next election. And he has a dozen more topics in his sights if he were to win reelection in 2022, including a sweeping income tax reduction and fire prevention efforts, paid in part by legalizing gambling statewide.
While he’s been registered as a Democrat since he was 18, Paffrath’s proposals and messaging draw from both sides of the political aisle.
On the right, there are his proposals to make all coronavirus safety measures optional, to ditch income tax for anyone making less than $250,000, to use the National Guard to get all unhoused Californians off the streets and to give trained gun owners more rights. His introduction video also features clips from Fox News and from conservative media host Ben Shapiro.
On the left, Paffrath calls for a version of universal basic income, more solar and wind farms, support for marriage equality, and higher pay for teachers.
“I’ve always been looking for somebody with centrist solutions who can bridge that gap between Democrats and Republicans to just solve problems,” Paffrath said.
In today’s hyper-partisan political era, a lot of voters might find that appealing.
But some people who work in the areas Paffrath wants to tackle say his platform illustrates the downside of people with zero political experience running for office. They say some of his ideas have already proven ineffective and others simply aren’t legal.
“Unless Mr. Paffrath has magical powers, this is the poorest substitute for a policy on homelessness that I have seen in 38 years of research and work on the topic,” said Gary Blasi, a law professor at UCLA who didn’t mince words after reviewing Paffrath’s pitch for getting all unhoused Californians off the streets in 60 days.
“What governments can do is limited by the Constitution,” Blasi continued, pointing out that state law “does not permit the government to simply round up unhoused people and force them into the only spaces that could be provided within 60 days.”
Bob Solomon, a law professor at UC Irvine who focuses on community development, described Paffrath’s housing plan, which would give the state control over all building and safety issues, as ambitious. But Solomon also said the Paffrath plan is “nothing more than vague promises,” since it doesn’t deal with the primary issue of local control and “communities that evade responsibility and actively fight new housing.”
Paffrath said he doesn’t claim to have all the answers, and that his team is reasonable and open to ideas from everyone.
Four months ago, Paffrath said he hadn’t considered politics. But as the recall election looked increasingly likely to happen, and with billionaire tech investor Chamath Palihapitiya out of the race on the Democratic side, Paffrath decided to jump in.
While he would be the youngest governor in California history, Paffrath believes his personal and professional background would make his perspective unique.
Paffrath was born in Germany and moved to Florida when he was 13 months old. While he was in high school in Florida, he started volunteering with the local police department, where he said he got his first taste of dealing with issues such as homeless care, drug abuse and domestic violence.
After moving to California at 17, Paffrath worked at Jamba Juice and Red Robin while attending Buena High School in Ventura. He bought his first home at 19 and became a real estate agent with his now wife, Lauren.
Paffrath graduated from UCLA in 2014 after studying economics, accounting and political science. He also became a real estate broker and opened his own company, Meet Kevin, The No-Pressure Agent.
In 2018, he launched his “Meet Kevin” channel on YouTube. Today, Paffrath has nearly 1.7 million subscribers and eight videos with more than 1 million views each, with his most popular video a 40-minute primer on how to purchase a rental property as a novice investor. In one video, Paffrath says his net worth is around $5 million thanks to real estate investments, stocks, YouTube income and other assets.
A question about his tax returns on his campaign site links to one of his YouTube videos for answers. But Paffrath says his gubernatorial bid is not about publicity. Since announcing his candidacy, and shifting his emphasis on YouTube to political talk, Paffrath says he’s lost traffic.
If elected, Paffrath said he would use the video format to be hyper-transparent with Californians, sharing daily updates on progress and obstacles to meeting the platform goals laid out on his website.
No matter who Californians support, Paffrath encourages everyone not to “squander” their vote and to weigh in on both of the questions that will be on the ballot.
A voter’s choice on the recall question has no bearing on the question of who might or might not replace Newsom. So Newsom supporters can vote no on the recall, but still select who they think would be the best Newsom replacement in case the recall wins the day. If Democrats don’t make both choices, Paffrath noted, they’ll be letting only Republicans and no party preference select the next governor.
Increasingly, it looks like that would give the job to conservative radio host Elder, who has scored at the top of several recent surveys. On Friday, Elder announced that his campaign has raised $4.5 million in the first 19 days of his campaign.
Paffrath has raised nearly $300,000 and has loaned his campaign $90,000 since entering the race in late April.
Ballots will be sent to all registered voters in California starting Aug. 16.
Source: Orange County Register