Paffrath, better known as MeetKevin on YouTube, is running to unseat Gov. Gavin Newsom in California’s recall election this month. It’s rare that a gubernatorial candidate would lead off a speech with such a painfully online reference, but that’s part of Paffrath’s appeal. He’s branded himself as the candidate for the r/wallstreetbets crowd — and so far, it’s working. As of publication, he’s the top polling Democrat at 8 percent.
Since 2017, Paffrath has made YouTube videos full-time from his home in Ventura, streaming his takes on the financial and cryptocurrency markets to an audience of over 1 million subscribers. He’s also the only Democrat spending big to win the election, and it’s made him the most viable candidate outside of Republicans like Larry Elder, a popular conservative talk radio host.
Paffrath has no choice but to run as an outsider. He’s not a prominent figure in the Democratic Party or a well-seasoned politician. He’s a 29-year-old man in a suit, a real-estate guy, and a poster fluent in crypto-speak. Paffrath sees his outsider status as an advantage rather than a drawback, in the same vein as entrepreneurs like Donald Trump and Andrew Yang who turned their massive media followings into powerful political movements.
The chaos of California’s recall system can reward that kind of outsider bid. Newsom remains deeply unpopular (although his polling has improved in recent weeks). If he loses the up or down vote, the actual gubernatorial vote will be split among a dozen different candidates, with only a plurality needed to win. In 2003, that same chaos saw Gary Coleman and Arianna Huffington throwing their hats in the ring — and Arnold Schwarzenegger becoming governor. In 2021, California has seen a more representative crop: a conservative radio host, a reality television star, and a social media influencer.