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Paffrath may be little known to the older demographic that reliably votes in elections, but YouTubers are gaining legitimate fame among younger media consumers. His loyal followers are largely “in the 28-35 range,’’ which he says is “a little older” than most YouTube aficionados in their teens and early 20s. His YouTube clout trounces any online following of conventional gubernatorial candidates like former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, former House Rep. Doug Ose and businessperson John Cox.

Elsewhere, two young star YouTubers paid the 10,000-pound fee to run for mayor of London. Niko Omilana, 23, with 3.4 million subscribers, and Max Fosh, 26, with 480,000 online fans, didn’t come close to beating incumbent Sadiq Khan. But marketing experts say they won where it counted — using the run as a springboard to gain more subscribers for their YouTube channels, numbers that can end up paying off in advertising or an endorsement deal.

With nothing to lose, YouTubers have offered a barrage of more intimate “let’s just talk” sessions and rapid-fire motivating talks. In some cases, pranks, music and slice-of-life offerings give audiences a feeling of knowing the candidate like a next-door neighbor.

But deep-blue California may be particularly skeptical of anyone trying to use social media as a campaign launch pad after watching former President Donald Trump do the same — all the way to the White House.

Democratic strategist Katie Merrill said a growing gaggle of YouTube sensations and social media wannabes could help Newsom make his case to stay in office. Merrill said most voters take the issues at stake seriously — and have no patience for amateurs, perennial candidates or online jokesters treating the election as an entertainment venue.

“They’re completely under the radar … but the more it looks like a circus, the more it helps Gavin,” she said. “Ultimately, the more candidates that are known to these very narrow segments of voters all benefit the governor.”

And candidates working mostly in the social media space admit they’ve got very different goals in getting into what’s become a furious partisan battle over California’s political future. Keeping their fans’ interest throughout the campaign can translate into far more than votes; YouTube views drive advertising revenue, while swag can generate more dollars. Not to mention the benefit of building a brand beyond the election.

Carey said she doesn’t personally support the recall, but wants to spotlight issues that matter to her, like homelessness. She also noted that her fans are “buying everything, T-shirts, even aprons.” Her website features dozens of “Mary Carey for Governor” items with her racy bikini photos. This week, she’s promoting her first official campaign event at a strip club in Marysville, just north of Sacramento.

In the selling arena, no California gubernatorial candidate can yet top Jenner, who has 11.1 million followers on Instagram and 3.4 million followers on Twitter. The reality TV star launched her gift shop before she posted an issues page and has no fewer than 41 different products bearing her name. They range from a $55 women’s “dry wick polo” and $35 wine glasses to a $30 poster that include her portrait.

That’s prompted increasing criticism that candidates like Jenner — who’s barely at 6 percent in the polls— are using the recall primarily to pump up themselves.

“What’s occurring in the race here in California is devaluing the position of government — devaluing the role of elected leaders, and faith in the process … now that anybody with a YouTube channel and $4,000 can simply make more money by throwing their hat in the ring,” said Sam Singer, a longtime public relations and marketing expert in San Francisco. “It’s click politics — and politics has become a click farm in order to make money for the individual — not to make the world a better place.”

Lee Houskeeper, another veteran San Francisco press agent, said YouTubers and social media stars are getting a windfall — and a bargain — with the minimal filing fee required to run against Newsom.

“You’re on YouTube, and in addition to whatever else you can claim about yourself — you can always say that you ran for governor,” Houskeeper said. “It costs $100,000 to get a university degree. So talk about a $4,000 pad of the resume.”

Paffrath, in recent campaign videos, is quite open about his goals: to get more clicks, more views, more followers to tune into what he says is a new way of looking at management of the state “that has been failed” by fellow Democrat Newsom.

“We can index and Google and get in front of people, and it’s like our cheapest form of advertising,’’ he tells supporters on a recent MeetKevin.com video. “These are big national discussions that we’re having right now — the Child Tax Credit, infrastructure, guns … these are probably three [200,000] to 300,000-view videos. They’re much more likely to get in front of news outlets … like the front page of New York Times.”

Garry South, a Democratic strategist who advised Gov. Gray Davis, the only California governor ever recalled, feared that too many candidates on the fringe are generating attention and driving media cycles — and he counts Jenner at the top of the list.

“And if Gavin Newsom beats the recall,” South said, “it doesn’t matter who these candidates are — or who has [the] most followers.”

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Guinea declares end to latest Ebola outbreak

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“I commend the affected communities, the government and people of Guinea, health workers, partners and everyone else whose dedicated efforts made it possible to contain this Ebola outbreak,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

“Based on the lessons learned from the 2014–16 outbreak and through rapid, coordinated response efforts, community engagement, effective public health measures and the equitable use of vaccines, Guinea managed to control the outbreak and prevent its spread beyond its borders.” The U.N. said it will continue to provide post-illness care.

The CDC welcomed the news in a statement.

“I commend the government and first responders in Guinea for ending the country’s Ebola outbreak,” said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky. “Our heartfelt sympathies are with the people who lost loved ones to this disease. CDC remains committed to supporting survivor programs and helping strengthen global preparedness and response capacities that can prevent or extinguish future Ebola outbreaks.”

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Hard-line judiciary head wins Iran presidency amid low turnout

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In initial results, former Revolutionary Guard commander Mohsen Rezaei won 3.3 million votes and moderate Abdolnasser Hemmati got 2.4 million, said Jamal Orf, the head of Iran’s Interior Ministry election headquarters. The race’s fourth candidate, Amirhossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi, had around 1 million votes, Orf said.

Hemmati offered his congratulations on Instagram to Raisi early Saturday.

“I hope your administration provides causes for pride for the Islamic Republic of Iran, improves the economy and life with comfort and welfare for the great nation of Iran,” he wrote.

On Twitter, Rezaei praised Khamenei and the Iranian people for taking part in the vote.

“God willing, the decisive election of my esteemed brother, Ayatollah Dr. Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi, promises the establishment of a strong and popular government to solve the country’s problems,” Rezaei wrote.

The quick concessions, while not unusual in Iran’s previous elections, signaled what semiofficial news agencies inside Iran had been hinting at for hours: That the carefully controlled vote had been a blowout win for Raisi amid the boycott calls.

As night fell Friday, turnout appeared far lower than in Iran’s last presidential election in 2017. At one polling place inside a mosque in central Tehran, a Shiite cleric played soccer with a young boy as most of its workers napped in a courtyard. At another, officials watched videos on their mobile phones as state television blared beside them, offering only tight shots of locations around the country — as opposed to the long, snaking lines of past elections.

Balloting came to a close at 2.a.m. Saturday, after the government extended voting to accommodate what it called “crowding” at several polling places nationwide. Paper ballots, stuffed into large plastic boxes, were to be counted by hand through the night, and authorities said they expected to have initial results and turnout figures Saturday morning at the earliest.

“My vote will not change anything in this election, the number of people who are voting for Raisi is huge and Hemmati does not have the necessary skills for this,” said Hediyeh, a 25-year-old woman who gave only her first name while hurrying to a taxi in Haft-e Tir Square after avoiding the polls. “I have no candidate here.”

Iranian state television sought to downplay the turnout, pointing to the Gulf Arab sheikhdoms surrounding it ruled by hereditary leaders, and the lower participation in Western democracies. After a day of amplifying officials’ attempts to get out the vote, state TV broadcast scenes of jam-packed voting booths in several provinces overnight, seeking to portray a last-minute rush to the polls.

But since the 1979 revolution overthrew the shah, Iran’s theocracy has cited voter turnout as a sign of its legitimacy, beginning with its first referendum that won 98.2% support that simply asked whether or not people wanted an Islamic Republic.

The disqualifications affected reformists and those backing Rouhani, whose administration both reached the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and saw it disintegrate three years later with then-President Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal of America from the accord.

Voter apathy also has been fed by the devastated state of the economy and subdued campaigning amid months of surging coronavirus cases. Poll workers wore gloves and masks, and some wiped down ballot boxes with disinfectants.

If elected, Raisi would be the first serving Iranian president sanctioned by the U.S. government even before entering office over his involvement in the mass execution of political prisoners in 1988, as well as his time as the head of Iran’s internationally criticized judiciary — one of the world’s top executioners.

It also would put hard-liners firmly in control across the government as negotiations in Vienna continue to try to save a tattered deal meant to limit Iran’s nuclear program at a time when Tehran is enriching uranium at its highest levels ever, though it still remains short of weapons-grade levels. Tensions remain high with both the U.S. and Israel, which is believed to have carried out a series of attacks targeting Iranian nuclear sites as well as assassinating the scientist who created its military atomic program decades earlier.

Whoever wins will likely serve two four-year terms and thus could be at the helm at what could be one of the most crucial moments for the country in decades — the death of the 82-year-old Khamenei. Speculation already has begun that Raisi might be a contender for the position, along with Khamenei’s son, Mojtaba.

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Apathy greets Iran presidential vote dominated by hard-liner

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“My vote will not change anything in this election, the number of people who are voting for Raisi is huge and Hemmati does not have the necessary skills for this,” said Hediyeh, a 25-year-old woman who gave only her first name while hurrying to a taxi in Haft-e Tir Square after avoiding the polls. “I have no candidate here.”

Iranian state television sought to downplay the turnout, pointing to the Gulf Arab sheikhdoms surrounding it ruled by hereditary leaders and the lower participation in Western democracies. But since the 1979 revolution overthrew the shah, Iran’s theocracy has cited voter turnout as a sign of its legitimacy, beginning with its first referendum that won 98.2% support that simply asked whether or not people wanted an Islamic Republic.

The disqualifications affected reformists and those backing Rouhani, whose administration both reached the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and saw it disintegrate three years later with then-President Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal of America from the accord. Former hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, also blocked from running, said on social media he’d boycott the vote.

Voter apathy also has been fed by the devastated state of the economy and subdued campaigning amid months of surging coronavirus cases. Poll workers wore gloves and masks, and some wiped down ballot boxes with disinfectants.

If elected, Raisi would be the first serving Iranian president sanctioned by the U.S. government even before entering office over his involvement in the mass execution of political prisoners in 1988, as well as his time as the head of Iran’s internationally criticized judiciary — one of the world’s top executioners.

It also would put hard-liners firmly in control across the government as negotiations in Vienna continue to try to save a tattered deal meant to limit Iran’s nuclear program at a time when Tehran is enriching uranium at its highest levels ever, though it still remains short of weapons-grade levels. Tensions remain high with both the U.S. and Israel, which is believed to have carried out a series of attacks targeting Iranian nuclear sites as well as assassinating the scientist who created its military atomic program decades earlier.

Whoever wins will likely serve two four-year terms and thus could be at the helm at what could be one of the most crucial moments for the country in decades — the death of the 82-year-old Khamenei. Speculation already has begun that Raisi might be a contender for the position, along with Khamenei’s son, Mojtaba.

Khamenei cast the first vote from Tehran, urging the public to “go ahead, choose and vote.”

Raisi, wearing a black turban that identifies him in Shiite tradition as a direct descendant of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, voted from a mosque in southern Tehran. The cleric acknowledged in comments afterward that some may be “so upset that they don’t want to vote.”

“I beg everyone, the lovely youths, and all Iranian men and women speaking in any accent or language from any region and with any political views, to go and vote and cast their ballots,” Raisi said.

But few appeared to heed the call. There are more than 59 million eligible voters in Iran, a nation of over 80 million people. However, the state-linked Iranian Student Polling Agency has estimated a turnout will be just 44%, which would be the lowest since the revolution. Officials gave no turnout figures Friday, though results could come Saturday.

Fears about a low turnout have some warning Iran may be turning away from being an Islamic Republic — a government with elected civilian leadership overseen by a supreme leader from its Shiite clergy — to a country more tightly governed by its supreme leader, who already has final say on all matters of state and oversees its defense and atomic program.

“This is not acceptable,” said former President Mohammad Khatami, a reformist who sought to change the theocracy from the inside during eight years in office. “How would this conform to being a republic or Islamic?”

For his part, Khamenei warned of “foreign plots” seeking to depress turnout in a speech Wednesday. A flyer handed out on the streets of Tehran by hard-liners echoed that and bore the image of Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2020. A polling station was set up by Soleimani’s grave on Friday.

Some voters appeared to echo that call.

“We cannot leave our destiny in the hands of foreigners and let them decide for us and create conditions that will be absolutely harmful for us,” said Tehran voter Shahla Pazouki.

Also hurting a moderate like Hemmati is the public anger aimed at Rouhani over the collapse of the deal, despite ongoing talks in Vienna to revive it. Iran’s already-ailing economy has suffered since, with double-digit inflation and mass unemployment.

“It is useless,” said Ali Hosseini, a 36-year-old unemployed resident in southern Tehran, about voting. “Anyone who wins the election after some time says he cannot solve problem of the economy because of intervention by influential people. He then forgets his promises and we poor people again remain disappointed.”

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