Sunday, September 14, 2008

Civil rights activist and gubernatorial candidate Peter Camejo dies at 68

FOLSOM — Civil rights activist and three-time Green Party candidate for governor Peter Miguel Camejo died Saturday at his home in Folsom, according to his family.

Camejo was born Dec. 31, 1939, in New York City to Elvia Guanche and Daniel Camejo Octavio. In the 1960s, Camejo attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to study math and then UC Berkeley to study history.

His participation in a Vietnam War protest at UC Berkeley got him suspended from the university, but his election to the student council launched his political career. During the Vietnam War protest era, then-Gov. Ronald Reagan called Camejo one of California's 10 most dangerous citizens.

Camejo, a former Walnut Creek resident, GUEST BOOKPost condolences for Peter Camejospent three years as a trustee of the Contra Costa County Employees Retirement Association. He is best known for his work as a social-justice advocate and for his work as part of the Green Party.

In Folsom, he was chief executive officer of Progressive Asset Management, a financial investment firm that encourages socially responsible projects.

"He was a standard bearer for the party for the last decade," said Larry Cafiero, a friend and former Green Party Liaison to the secretary of state. "He's going to be pretty hard to replace as far as social justice issues goes."

Camejo and Cafiero ran together during the 2006 gubernatorial race. Cafiero spent a lot of time with Camejo during the campaign. Camejo had run for governor Advertisementin 2002 and in the 2003 recall election, garnering 5.3 percent of the vote.

"It was a very enjoyable and enlightening experience," Cafiero said. "There wasn't any issue that he didn't know anything about and couldn't speak with authority on."

Mike Wyman, 2006 Green Party candidate for attorney general, said in a statement issued on behalf of the Green Party of California, "We join with the Camejo family in their grief and mourn for the passing of a truly unique and exemplary individual. He will be sorely missed by us all. 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."

In 2004, Camejo was chosen as Ralph Nader's running mate in his independent run for president. In an e-mail tribute, Nader highlighted Camejo's character.

"Peter was a friend, colleague and politically courageous champion of the downtrodden and mistreated of the entire Western hemisphere," Nader wrote. "Everyone who met Peter, talked with Peter, worked with Peter, or argued with Peter, will miss the passing of a great American."

Camejo, 68, had been battling lymphoma. He announced his diagnosis in January 2007. The cancer was in remission in March 2008, but doctors made a second diagnosis of lymphoma in May. Camejo's condition had deteriorated in the past few days.

Camejo's wife, Morella, was at his side, Nader said.

His brother, Danny, remembers Camejo as a man with a lot going for him.

"He was a person who fought constantly for justice. He was an activist, an entrepreneur and he was a dedicated family," Danny Camejo said.

Danny Camejo believes his brother was most proud of his political activism. Camejo had been fighting for the release of Santos Reyes, an undocumented Mexican immigrant, who is serving a 26-years-to-life prison sentence in Folsom State Prison for placing a false name on a driver's license test. The offense is normally a misdemeanor, but Reyes was charged with felony perjury.

Camejo is survived by his wife, a son, Victor, a daughter, Alexandra, three brothers and three grandchildren.

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