Flip that economy

Richard Aguirre, running for governor on a platform of beach funk and extreme capitalism.

Richard Aguirre, running for governor on a platform of beach funk and extreme capitalism.

Bites has written about a lot of third-party, long-shot, also-ran and dark-horse candidates over the years. Sometimes those campaigns are quixotic and beautifully doomed. Sometimes they’re just half-assed.

But nobody can accuse California Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Richard Aguirre of not hustling. He’s been hustling his whole life.

Bites first learned about Aguirre after spotting a pretty yellow-and-blue campaign sign over by Sutter General Hospital in Midtown.

Turns out the 41-year-old Aguirre drove all the way from San Diego to plant that sign and several others around the city. It was part of a nine-day tour around the state—with stops in San Francisco, Fresno and Bakersfield—that Aguirre made with his girlfriend and his buddy just after the new year.

Aguirre is the nephew of former San Diego City Attorney Mike Aguirre, but has never held office himself. His father died when Aguirre was very young. “At 13, we were on welfare; it was just me and Mom and my sister. These were the Reagan years,” he explains. He later got accepted to UC Berkeley, then took a hiatus from school and returned to San Diego to start a surf shop. After building up a bit of a nest egg by building surfboards, Aguirre returned to Berkley and bought a house—a big six-bedroom house, and he rented out every bedroom to his friends. That was enough to put him through the university, where, in 1994, he got his degree in economic geography. Diploma in hand, he sold the house and bought another in San Diego. Several flipped houses later, Aguirre was ready to get out. “I got lucky. Real estate in California is a Ponzi scheme. It’s not a basis for anything real and lasting.” He jumped off the property ladder in 2002 with enough money to take it easy for a while, to surf and play guitar in his band, Karl Marx and the Beach Funk Revolution.

So consider Aguirre’s knack for turning a profit, and his good timing, when you consider his plan for California. Every homeowner in the state will be assessed a one-time fee of $100 on each house they own. Multiply by 20 million houses, and voilà, that’s $2 billion. Aguirre wants to take that money and open three state-run solar-panel factories. Every homeowner would get free solar panels on their roof (or wherever they can fit them) and start generating their own power. The surplus power, Aguirre explains, will be sold to commercial buyers and manufacturers out of state. With that money, Aguirre says, the state should start building small desalination plants. “Everybody would get their water for free.” Again, there will be surplus, and the surplus will get sold to Nevada and Arizona. “Pretty soon, we’ll have $3 or $4 billion coming every month,” enough money to build a brand new health-care system, a statewide public-transit system and pump billions into the schools. Aguirre calls it “extreme capitalism.”

Sure, you could nitpick this plan to death. But If you think about it, his solar plan is really just a much, much, much bigger version of the way Aguirre has built his own life.

He just donated $7,000 of his savings on his gubernatorial campaign—to spend on campaign signs and bumper stickers. He just spent the last of his campaign wad on 20,000 mints, with “Aguirre for Governor 2010” printed on the wrappers.

His whole life savings won’t look like much compared to the war chests of his opponents in the democratic primary. Gavin Newsom, John Garamendi and Jerry Brown are likely to make it a brutal and ridiculously expensive primary fight. “Those three names right there, they aren’t going to stand up for the working-class man. They are going to keep big business in power,” Aguirre responds. “I’ll be battling some huge money, but I’ll be battling some stupid ideas, too.”