Peter Camejo dies - helped found Green Party
Rachel Gordon, Chronicle Staff Writer
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Third-party political activist Peter Camejo, a perennial candidate
for state and national office who helped pioneer the financial market
niche of socially responsible investments, died Saturday. He was 68.
Mr. Camejo, who had been battling a recurrence of lymphoma, died at
home in Folsom (Sacramento County).
He helped found the California Green Party in 1991 and ran three
times for governor of California. He also ran as independent Ralph
Nader's vice presidential running mate in the 2004 presidential
election in which President Bush won a second term. In 1976 he ran
for president as the Socialist Workers Party candidate.
Mr. Camejo described himself as a watermelon - red on the inside,
green on the outside.
"Peter used his eloquence, sharp wit and barnstorming bravado to
blaze a trail for 21st century third-party politics in the U.S.,"
Nader said in a prepared statement, which described Mr. Camejo as a
"politically courageous champion of the downtrodden and mistreated of
the entire Western Hemisphere."
Active in the Free Speech Movement and in protests against the
Vietnam War as a student at UC Berkeley in the late 1960s, Mr. Camejo
landed on then-Gov. Ronald Reagan's list of the 10 most dangerous
people in California. School officials eventually expelled him, two
quarters shy of a degree.
The spark of activism stayed with him as he became a leader in the
movement to give voice to third-party candidates. He fought for
universal health care, election reform, farmworker rights, living
wage laws and against the death penalty and abortion restrictions.
His forum was often electoral politics, where he challenged
Republicans and Democrats alike.
He ran for California governor in 2002, 2003 and 2006, only once
breaking past the mark of 5 percent of the vote in grassroots
campaigns in which he was vastly outspent by his Democratic and
Republican rivals. He once told a reporter that he never expected to
win, but wanted to help elevate the Greens to the mainstream political stage.
Mr. Camejo earned his living as a financier and helped start an
investment firm, Progressive Management Asset Inc. in Oakland.
Clients can arrange their portfolios so that their investments, for
example, are not linked to animal testing, weapons or sweatshop labor.
He created the first environmentally screened fund - the Eco-Logical
Trust - for a major Wall Street firm, Merrill Lynch. He also founded
the Council for Responsible Public Investments and wrote the book,
"The SRI Advantage: Why Socially Responsible Investing Has
Peter Miguel Camejo was born on New Year's Eve 1939 at a hospital in
Queens, N.Y., where his mother had flown from Venezuela to use the
American health care system and to give her son dual U.S.-Venezuelan
citizenship. He spent the first part of his life in his parents'
homeland. He moved to New York at age 7 with his mother when his
parents divorced but spent summers in Latin America. He said the
poverty he saw as a youth in Venezuela drove his passion for social
and economic justice.
After graduating from high school with a perfect score on his math
SAT, he studied mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology and later transferred to UC Berkeley. He never earned a degree.
Matt Gonzalez, a former San Francisco supervisor who is running for
vice president with Nader as an independent, said that Mr. Camejo
once told him that when he interviewed for his job at Merrill Lynch,
"the only thing that was true on my resume was my name and phone number."
Gonzalez said Mr. Camejo was a success at Merrill Lynch, but was
pushed out after the firm found out that one of its star employees
had been arrested for protesting and had run for president as a
socialist. Gonzalez said his friend continued to be a pioneer in the
socially responsible investment movement and made a political mark,
even though he did not win in any state or national election.
In the days leading to his death, Mr. Camejo completed his autobiography.
"We will all be able to get a vivid sense of the great measure of
Peter Camejo as a sentinel force for civil rights and civil
liberties, and expander of democracy. His lifework will inspire the
political and economic future for a long time," Nader said.
He is survived by his wife, Morella Camejo; stepdaughter Alexandra
Baquera of San Diego; stepson Victor Baquera of Folsom; brothers
Antonio and Daniel Camejo and Danny Ratner.
Details for a memorial service will be announced.
E-mail Rachel Gordon at email@example.com.
Green Party activist Peter Camejo dies at 68
September 13, 2008
SACRAMENTO -- Peter Camejo, a Green Party leader who was a
third-party candidate in three California gubernatorial elections
before becoming Ralph Nader's running mate in the 2004 presidential
race, died Saturday. He was 68.
Camejo, who had been battling lymphoma, died at his home in Folsom, a
suburb east of Sacramento.
"Peter was a friend, colleague and politically courageous champion of
the downtrodden and mistreated of the entire Western Hemisphere,"
Nader wrote in a statement released Saturday. "Everyone who met
Peter, talked to Peter, worked with Peter, or argued with Peter, will
miss the passing of a great American."
Camejo ran for the state's top office in 2002, 2003 and 2006,
supporting abortion rights, the legalization of marijuana, universal
health care and a moratorium on the death penalty. Before joining the
Green Party, he also ran for president as the Socialist Workers Party
nominee in 1976.
In 2004, Camejo was independent Nader's vice presidential pick.
Last month, Camejo, who lost his hair from chemotherapy, attended the
Peace and Freedom Party convention in Sacramento to endorse Nader's
current bid for the presidency with running mate Matt Gonzalez.
"Ralph Nader is more than a candidate, he's an issue," Camejo said in
his Aug. 2 speech, adding that Nader brought true reform, offering an
independent choice to the "ruling party."
Camejo passed away a few days after completing his autobiography,
according to Nader.
Born on New Year's Eve 1939 in New York City, Camejo, a
first-generation Venezuelan-American, became an activist at an early
age, speaking out against the Vietnam War and for migrant worker
rights. He marched in Selma, Ala., with Martin Luther King, Jr.
His fiery activism also got him expelled from the University of
California, Berkeley in 1967 for using a school microphone during a
demonstration. A year later, then-governor Ronald Reagan put him on
his list of the 10 most dangerous people in California because he was
"present at all anti-war demonstrations."
In 1987, Camejo co-founded Progressive Asset Management Inc., an
Oakland investment firm that steers its clients' money into socially
responsible funds where he remained its board chairman until his
death. He also served as a board member of Earth Share, a federation
of more than 400 environmental organizations, where he worked to
promote solar energy.
"Peter Camejo was a man of great passion and boundless compassion for
the poor, uninsured workers and for immigrant workers in their
struggle for justice and legalization," Mike Wyman, a longtime
friend, said in a statement on behalf of the Green Party of
California. "He became a leader in the environmental justice movement
and helped organized communities of color around environmental issues
that affected them directly."
In January 2007, Camejo announced that doctors had diagnosed him with
cancer after undergoing an MRI for a swollen spleen.
According to a statement put out by Camejo's family on a blog that
had been updating his condition, Camejo voluntarily returned home
Friday after undergoing treatment at UC Davis Medical Center in
Sacramento for a reoccurrence of lymphoma.
"Peter's health had declined rapidly over the last two days due to
the aggressiveness of his cancer and the strength of the drugs used
to combat his disease," according to the family statement. "His wife
was at his side when he passed peacefully this morning."
Camejo is survived by wife Morella, daughter Alexandra, son Victor,
brothers Antonio, Daniel and Danny and three grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements were under way and that a public memorial would
be arranged later, his family said.