Leading California Democratic strategist Kam Kuwata dies at 57

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Kam Kuwata, one of California’s leading Democratic political strategists and a droll wit whose lively quotes and keen analyses enlivened many campaigns and journalistic accounts of those races, has died. He was 57.


Kuwata’s body was found in his condominium in the Venice neighborhood of Los Angeles on Monday morning after friends and family grew concerned when they had not heard from him for several days. The cause of death was not immediately known.

Kuwata began his political career working in the mailroom for then-U.S. Sen. Alan Cranston. He worked for Cranston’s 1984 presidential campaign and established himself as one of the state’s best-known strategists — and most quotable voices — as the voluble spokesman for Cranston’s 1986 reelection campaign. Cranston ultimately edged out Rep. Ed Zschau after a close and hard-fought campaign.

In 1992, Kuwata joined Bill Carrick, a Los Angeles-based Democratic strategist and Kuwata’s longtime friend and campaign partner, as a top strategist for Dianne Feinstein, helping win the U.S. Senate seat she still holds. Kuwata helped Feinstein win reelection several times and, up until his death, was talking up her prospects for another run in 2012.

Other clients included Hawaii Sen. Daniel Akaka, former Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn and former Rep. Jane Harman (D-Venice). In 2008, he helped then-Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign team manage the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

‘He was a great, smart, savvy political mind,’ Carrick said. ‘Even more important, he was one of the nicest people that ever worked in politics. Generous beyond compare.’

Information on services was not immediately available.

For the record, 3:45 p.m. April 11: An earlier version of this post said Kuwata worked as a strategist for Feinstein’s gubernatorial campaign in 1990. He started working for her Senate election in 1992.


-- Mark Barabak