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 Outperformed Financially."
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.