VENICE, Calif. — Kam Kuwata, a leading Democratic political strategist who helped shepherd support for California’s high-speed rail ballot initiative as well as then-Senator Barack Obama’s campaign for the presidency, was found dead in his Venice, Calif. home on April 11, various news sources report. He was 57.
Although the cause of death was not known, the Los Angeles Times reported that there was no evidence of foul play.
The death of the longtime advisor to U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) among others sent shockwaves throughout the political landscape, all the way to the White House.
“I was saddened to learn of the passing of my friend Kam Kuwata,” said President Obama in a statement released by the White House. “Kam’s brilliance as a political strategist was matched by his passion for our country and the process by which we govern ourselves. I’ll never forget the critical contribution Kam made to our efforts in 2008, planning an open, vibrant Convention that really captured the spirit of our campaign. Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to Kam’s extended family of friends and to so many in California who mourn his passing.”
“California has lost a sharp political mind, and I’ve lost a loyal and dear friend of more than 20 years,” said Feinstein in a statement. “Kam managed my first Senate campaign in 1992. We went through a lot together
in those days, and no matter the circumstances, I could always rely on Kam’s great sense of humor, his good advice and his compassion for the people of California.
“He was respected by people in politics and journalism, something I always thought spoke volumes about the kind of person he was,” Feinstein added. “I am shocked by Kam’s death and reminded at how short life is. There will never be another like Kam, and I will miss him.”
“I will miss his brilliant mind, his sense of strategy and his quick wit — all of which he used to help keep the American dream alive for all Californians and all Americans,” added U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
California Gov. Jerry Brown called Kuwata “A knowledgeable and insightful voice in California politics,” whose “analytical skills, coupled with his gentle approach to a tough business, earned him the respect and friendship of his allies and opponents alike.”
“Kam’s wisdom and graciousness will be missed,” added Brown.
According to the Website of the Public Policy Institute of California — an organization on which he served on its Statewide Leadership Council — Kuwata has been a Democratic political consultant for the last 25 years “who specializes in strategic planning, media coordination, and press and message development.”
Kuwata, a graduate of Pasadena High School and the University of Southern California — where he earned a political science degree — began his career on as a mail clerk for U.S. Sen. Alan Cranston (D-CA). He rose through the ranks to eventually serve as Cranston’s spokesperson during his unsuccessful 1984 presidential campaign.
He served as the program director for the Obama campaign at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, and that same year he was the campaign manager for the successful high-speed rail bond measure on the California ballot.
Throughout the years, he has run statewide campaigns in California and Hawai‘i — for such politicians as Senators Cranston, Feinstein and Daniel Akaka (D-Hawai’i).
“He was a true pioneer who gained a reputation in the rough and tumble world of political consulting when the rest of us were still trying to figure out where to begin,” Sacramento-based political advocate Georgette Imura told the Nichi Bei Weekly. “Plus, he managed to remain a decent guy who was always willing to help us novices.”