Peter Camejo, who co-founded the California Green Party 17 years ago and in 2004 was the vice-presidential running mate of Ralph Nader, died of lymphoma last week at his home in Folsom. He was 68.
The cerebral and congenial Camejo, who once described himself as a watermelon – red on the inside and green on the outside — ran for governor three times in California, in 2002, 2003 and 2006. He also was credited with popularizing a niche in the world of finance – that of socially responsible investor.
In 1976, in his first run for national office, he ran for president as a Socialist Workers Party candidate.
Camejo’s rise to prominence as a third-party political maverick drew praise.
“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” contender.
His role as political activist seemed at odds with his profession as financier and investment banker, who helped found the Oakland-based Progressive Management Asset Inc. But Camejo melded the two, in part because his financial firm encouraged clients to be socially and environmentally sensitive in their investments.
He created the Eco-Logical Trust for Merrill Lynch, and founded the Council for Responsible Public Investments.
Camejo’s political consciousness developed during the 1960s, when he was active in the Free Speech Movement and protests against the Vietnam War while at Berkeley. At one point, the San Francisco Chronicle reported, Camejo was listed on then-Gov. Ronald Reagan’s list of the 10 most dangerous people in California. He later was expelled from Berkeley before he obtained his degree.
Among the causes Camejo supported were universal health care, farmworkers’ rights, abortion rights and higher minimum-wage laws.
Peter Miguel Camejo was born on New Year’s Eve in Queens, N.Y. His mother had gone to the United States to have him born in this country, allowing him to enjoy dual citizenship. Later, when he was 7 years old, his parents divorced, and Camejo and his mother moved permanently to the U.S. His father was a wealthy Venezuelan businessman.
Camejo, who got a perfect score on the mathematics portion of his SAT exam, studied mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He later left to attend Berkeley. He never earned a degree.
“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.