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, 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 California's top office in 2002, 2003 and 2006, supporting abortion rights, the legalization of marijuana, universal healthcare 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, landing on the ballot in 18 states and winning 91,314 votes.
In 2004, Camejo was independent Nader's vice presidential pick.
Last month, Camejo attended the Peace and Freedom Party convention in Sacramento to endorse Nader's 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 alternative to the "ruling party."
Camejo died a few days after completing his autobiography, according to Nader.
Born on New Year's Eve, 1939, in New York City, Camejo was born into a prosperous Venezuelan family. His father, Daniel Camejo, was a developer of resorts. The younger Camejo dropped out of MIT in the late 1950s and, with his father, sailed for Venezuela in the 1960 Olympics.
In the 1960s, Camejo became politically active, speaking out against the Vietnam War and for migrant worker rights. He marched in Selma, Ala., with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
His fiery activism got him expelled from UC Berkeley in 1967. A year later, Gov. Ronald Reagan put him on his list of the 10 most dangerous people in California because he was "present at all antiwar demonstrations."
Camejo eventually landed work as a broker at Merrill Lynch but retained his political edge. When the firm rejected his proposal to create an individual retirement account that gave funds to AIDS groups, he quit, according to a Times article.
In 1987, Camejo co-founded Progressive Asset Management Inc., an Oakland investment firm that steers clients' money into socially responsible funds.
He remained the company's 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.
In January 2007, Camejo announced that he had been diagnosed 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 returned home Friday after undergoing treatment at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento for a reoccurrence of lymphoma.
Camejo is survived by his wife, Morella; daughter, Alexandra; son, Victor; brothers, Antonio, Daniel and Danny; and three grandchildren.