From Youtube stars to cannabis lobbyists to anti-mask Marin County yoga instructors, here are your nine options to vote for a Democrat in the upcoming California recall election — even though Newsom and many others are saying you should just leave that side of the ballot blank.

It is political malpractice that Governor Gavin Newsom is telling his Democratic supporters to leave their recall replacement candidate ballot blank, considering that Newsom is clinging to a less than one-point lead on the ballot’s first question, according to the FiveThirtyEight average. It is very possible Newsom could lose! I know I’m going to vote for a Democrat on the second question, so SFist reached out to all nine Democrats on the ballot to size them up.

Some got back to us, some didn’t. Some seem capable — articulate doctors, lawyers, and professionals — others come off as completely out to lunch. We’re listing all nine of them and their statements below, in the order of how they’re polling in those polls included in the FiveThirtyEight average.

Kevin Paffrath (Financial Educator/Analyst)

Kevin Paffrath bristles at being characterized as a “Youtube influencer,” considering he’s the leading recall candidate in a credible SurveyUSA poll commissioned by KABC and the San Diego Union-Tribune, which has Newsom losing and Paffrath as your next California governor.


“The rate we’re on in California, in 20 years we’ll be bankrupt,” Paffrath tells SFist, explaining his candidacy. “This is really bad, and it’s happening because of excessive regulation, taxation, overbearing government, and frankly mismanaged government. We don’t have enough water. Our governor isn’t fighting wildfires like he says he’s going to do. NPR exposed him for overstating wildfire prevention by 690%. We are a state that legalized cannabis five years ago, yet after five years, 85% of cannabis sales are still illegal. We are a misfunctioning state because we have poor leadership. We can’t solve our housing crisis, our homeless crisis, and our roads are broken.”

“I have a three- and five-year-old,” he continues. “I want this state to not be broken in 20 years. I want this state to not be broken in five years. But I don’t want my children who are three and five to ask me when they’re 20 or 25, ‘Dad, why did you raise us in this state? This state is broken. We should have moved.’”

Jacqueline McGowan (Cannabis Policy Advisor)

A former stockbroker, Jackie McGowan has been a cannabis lobbyist since 2014. As such, it’s at the top of her plank to declare “cannabis as an agricultural product. This should alleviate over regulation at the local level.” But she did not even mention weed when we spoke, and has more on her mind.

“I will be the only Democrat to roll back regulations in the midst of a pandemic which we are still in,” she tells us. “You cannot expect businesses, small or large, to survive when you eat away at their margins by increasing the red tape in one way, and not decreasing it in another way. Small businesses are surviving on one to three percent margins, typically. If you’re going to eat away at that, it doesn’t matter how many loans you give to them, they can't pay it back if they can’t make money.

“I’m running for governor because I had a front row seat to the corruption that goes on at the capital,” she adds. “Both parties want all of us, every Californian, to believe that the other is responsible for all of our woes. When the reality is that it’s corruption at the core.”

Dr. Brandon Ross (Attorney and Physician)

If Newsom gets recalled, and you want to see him replaced by someone who would just do exactly what Gavin Newsom is doing, Dr. Brendan Ross is your guy.

“I saw a Republican takeover trying to get the highest office in California, and I didn’t see any Democrats of note that were running,” Ross tells SFist. “I’m a physician and attorney. I know medical science, so I’m able to grasp what’s going on with COVID to make good decisions. And I’m a Democrat, so I wouldn’t make any policy changes from the current administration. “

Ross also has an MBA and a master’s degree in public health. “I’m aware of business and law and medicine, so I think I could handle the job,” he says.

Daniel Watts (Free Speech Lawyer)

Attorney Daniel Watts is best known for impersonating author Cormac McCarthy on Twitter. He even got the blue check! He did not respond to our request for comment, but he did sit down for an interview with the San Diego Union Tribune.

“I’m not running against Newsom, I’m running to force the other candidates — and hopefully the governor — to support free speech and free college,” he tells the Union Tribune. “We have a $76 billion surplus; for one-tenth of that, we could make every four-year public college in California 100 percent tuition-free. And those colleges need to obey the First Amendment — unlike UC San Diego, which spent $800,000 on lawyers to pummel a student newspaper into submission in Koala v. Khosla. The governor should immediately order a legal review of all student speech codes at California’s public colleges and universities; those that pass constitutional muster should be made tuition-free.”

Patrick Kilpatrick (Actor/ Screenwriter/ Producer)

As President and CEO of Uncommon Dialogue Films, Patrick Kilpatrick has opinions on the business of show business. “I've acted and assistant directed/directed on Broadway/off-Broadway and regional theater, 200+ films and hit TV shows as a lead actor, screenwriter, director, producer — including work with Steven Spielberg, Antoine Fuqua, James Cameron, Tom Cruise, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Naomi Watts, and a host of other significant directors and A-list actors,” he tells us via email, noting that California is losing film shoots to other states.

He says his campaign is “about lowering taxes so more money is placed in the hands of Californians.” He adds that “We want to see the renovation of the decaying schools. We are about parental choice for schools and support of Charter schools. We are about a 70% tax incentive for restoration, renovation, and maintenance of any vintage or historical building, allowing more people to assume home property ownership in an affordable manner. We are about zero tolerance for crime and equal justice for all. We are about solar and wind power subsidies including subsidies for landlords. We believe a state-wide program of desalination plants must be implemented to combat the ongoing effects of climate change. We believe California should be the center point of the world's manufacture and export of environmental technology.”

Holly Baade (Mother/ Business Owner)

Marin County yoga instructor Holly Baade did not respond to us, but describes herself as a “Former Miss California Contestant, Single-Mother, Small Business Owner, State Leadership Consultant and California Hometown Girl.”

And you guessed it, she’s the anti-mask candidate of the lot. “We are abusing children by asking them to wear masks when they should be having formative interactions with their parents, teachers and each other,” she recently told KPIX. “These tyrannical mandates need to be ended and those who imposed them should be held accountable.”

Armando “Mando” Perez-Serrato

If you liked Game of Thrones-referencing former supervisor John Avalos, you’ll love “Mando” Perez-Serrato, whose website home page is a Mandolarian screenshot.

“At the most basic ‘Individual’ level I'm running for governor for the simple fact that I don't like to be controlled and I believe the majority of Californians don't either,” he tells SFist. “During this pandemic I've learned how much politicians can severely ‘control’ and ‘impact’ our daily lives.”

“My goal is to continue ‘Democratic Stability’ in our great State of California with the added bonus of honoring and respecting individual, business, school, religious, city, county rights and freedoms,” he continues. “We are the third largest state with equally different communities. Instead of a one-size fits all approach that the current governor has taken, I will support what each community feels is best for them. For example, if the City of San Francisco wants to implement Covid-19 mandates but the city of Eureka doesn't, that will be 100% their decision.”

John Drake (College Student)

This young man is… a young man! The San Luis Obispo Tribune describes John Drake as a “20-year-old Ventura resident, Latvia adoptee, bisexual man, progressive Democrat and incoming Cal Poly junior.”

Since he’s a student, we’ll highlight this from his San Diego Tribune interview. “I have actually been in the modern school system, so who better to address this than me?,” he says. “ I think creating a tier system of learning would bring out the best in students. You have fast-paced for students who are quick thinkers to remain engaged, medium-paced for average students as a default and slower-paced for students needing a little extra help. Unlike the current system where this doesn’t exist, these will all be opt-ins designed to enhance the performance of specific subjects one may be struggling in.”

Joel Ventresca (Retired Airport Analyst)

You might remember Joel Ventresca as a down ballot candidate against Mayor London Breed in the 2019 election. He’s also a former City and County of San Francisco Environmental Commissioner.

“I am the most qualified Democrat on the ballot to replace the current governor if the recall is successful,” he tells SFist. “For over 25 years as a veteran peaceful warrior champion, I battled the Most Corrupt Machine in California & America. The decades-old San Francisco Willie Brown & protégés corruption machine amassed unprecedented power & wealth for a few and caused ever-expanding criminal prosecutions. This nefarious machine is linked to widespread scandal, bribery, money laundering, contract fixing, patronage, violence, threats, election irregularities & backroom deals. As an incorruptible, independent, Berniecrat, Democrat, I offer new transformational leadership and fundamental change.”

Related: California's Pointless Recall Election Will Happen on September 14 [SFist]

Images: Candidates’ websites