Peter Miguel Camejo (December 31, 1939, New York City – September 13, 2008, Folsom, California) was an American author, activist and politician. In 2004, he was selected by independent candidate Ralph Nader as his vice-presidential running mate on a ticket which had the endorsement of the Reform Party. Camejo was a three-time Green Party gubernatorial candidate most recently in 2006 receiving 2.3% of the vote. Camejo also ran in the 2003 California recall election finishing fourth in a field of 135 candidates (2.8%), and 2002 finishing fourth with 5.3%.
In January 2007, Camejo announced that he had been diagnosed with early-stage lymphoma, a cancer that is usually treatable. As of March 2008, after a series of chemotherapy treatments, the cancer was in remission, but in May it was announced that doctors had made a second diagnosis of lymphoma; Camejo died four months later.
Camejo was a first-generation American of Venezuelan descent. At the time of his birth, his mother was residing in the Queens borough of New York City. Although a "natural born citizen" of the United States — hence constitutionally eligible for the U.S. Presidency later in life — Camejo spent most of his early childhood in Venezuela.
His parents, Elvia Guanche and Dr. Daniel Camejo Octavio, divorced when their son was seven. Camejo then resided with his mother in the United States and returned to Venezuela during summer holidays to visit family. In later youth Camejo showed talent as a yachtsman, competing in 1960 for Venezuela at the Rome Olympics.
Camejo entered the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, involving himself in soccer and, increasingly, left-wing politics. Later he studied history at the University of California, Berkeley, where he won election to student council. His participation in a protest of the Vietnam War in 1967 led to his suspension from the University for "using an unauthorized microphone." Then-governor Ronald Reagan deemed Camejo one of California's ten most dangerous citizens due to his presence at anti-war protests. He participated in one of the Selma civil rights marches.
Initially, Camejo was a member of the Socialist Workers Party, a Trotskyist party. As a branch organizer, he sought to reorient the SWP towards the student movement. He was the SWP's nominee for President in 1976 and won 90,986 votes, or 0.1%.
The SWP's policy was to turn its members into "proletarians" by having them take jobs in factories and advocate for a worker-based class struggle. By 1980, Camejo came to disagree with this policy in favor of democratic socialism, and the SWP expelled him.
In 1992 Camejo committed $20,000 of personal resources toward establishing the Progressive Alliance of Alameda County, an organizational effort that failed to sustain itself. Camejo was quoted in 2002 as claiming that he was a watermelon—green on the outside but red on the inside.
Early gubernatorial campaignsEdit
In 2002, Camejo ran uncontested in the California Green Party gubernatorial primary. In the general election, he ran as part of the first full slate of Green candidates for all seven of California's partisan constitutional offices. Camejo lost the election to Governor Gray Davis, but he polled 393,036 votes, for 5.3% of the vote, the largest vote total for a third-party in the California governor's race in more than fifty years.Template:Fact Because the San Francisco Green Party endorsed him, Camejo earned more votes in San Francisco than Republican gubernatorial nominee Bill Simon, a rarity in third-party politics. Camejo's alienation of the San Francisco local resulted in neither an endorsement nor any effort expended towards organizing for him in subsequent elections and he was unable to beat the Republican in San Francisco in 2003 and 2004.
In 2003, he was the endorsed Green Party candidate for governor (although several other Greens appeared on the ballot) in an unprecedented California recall election, in which he polled 242,247 votes for 2.8%, coming in fourth in a field of 135 certified candidates. In a strange preview of the divisions about to erupt on the left in the following year, Camejo first cooperated with, and then competed with, fellow recall candidate Arianna Huffington.
2004 vice-presidential campaignEdit
Camejo was submitted as a candidate in the Green Party of California's March 2, 2004, Presidential Preference Primary. Before the primary, he made it known that he was not planning to run for president and that any delegates pledged to him would not be committed to vote for him after the first round. The former gubernatorial candidate received 33,753 votes (75.9%) of the Green Party membership's support in California, and 72.7% of the votes in all Green Party primary elections. However, when candidates in California file papers to run for office, they sign an affidavit that they are actually running and will serve if elected in order to prevent the electoral fraud of stand-in or stalking horse campaigns.
In June 2004, Camejo campaigned for the vice-presidential spot beside two-time Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader as independents, running against the Green Party nominee. They received the endorsement of the Reform Party, which gave them ballot access in several states they would not otherwise have. With votes for Nader added in, the Nader/Camejo ticket had what appeared to be an insurmountable 83% of Green voters behind their candidacies going into the Green Party National Convention. However, their lack of contrition about their intentions and Nader's last-minute naming of Camejo as his running mate led to the appearance of a bait and switch deception, and did not play well with Green delegates.Template:Fact Rejected by the Greens, Nader and Camejo continued their campaign as independent candidates.
Both Nader and Camejo said the main reason they ran in the 2004 election was because there were no other national candidates demanding an immediate withdrawal of American troops from what they believe is an immoral and unconstitutionally pursued War in Iraq (though Green David Cobb, Libertarian Michael Badnarik, Constitution Party candidate Michael Peroutka, Socialist Party USA candidate Walt Brown and Socialist Workers Party candidate Róger Calero also opposed the war to varying degrees.) However, unlike all of these candidates, because Ralph Nader was regularly invited to appear on mainstream news, the Nader and Camejo team were the only candidates who had a regular voice in the mainstream media arguing for withdrawal.
The Nader/Camejo ticket came in a distant third in the election, polling approximately 460,000 votes, or 0.4% of the vote. Camejo's supporters claimed vindication of their assertion that Nader/Camejo had four-to-one support within the party, as Cobb and running mate Pat LaMarche received scarcely a fifth of their support at 119,859 votes (0.1%) a drop of 95% compared to the Green Party's 2000 national ticket. Camejo's experiences on the 2004 campaign are chronicled in Jurgen Vsych's book, "What Was Ralph Nader Thinking?"
2006 governor campaignEdit
Camejo made his third bid for Governor of California against incumbent Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democratic Party nominee Phil Angelides. Camejo received 193,553 votes, or 2.3% of the popular vote.
Other political workEdit
Just over a month after the 2004 election, Camejo was elected as one of California's delegates to the National Committee of the Green Party. At the 2005 Green Party National Convention, Camejo stated that he would not be a candidate for President in 2008.
Camejo has written a number of articles concerning the divisions evident in the Green Party in the aftermath of the turbulent 2004 national convention, continuing the themes of the Avocado Declaration in opposing attempts to "cozy up" to the newly-formed Progressive Democrats of America.
Family and workEdit
Camejo is survived by his wife Morella, his daughter Alexandra, his son Victor, three brothers Antonio, Daniel, and Danny, and three grandchildren Andrew, Daniel and Oliver.Template:Fact He last lived in Folsom, California, where he was Chief Executive Officer of Progressive Asset Management, a financial investment firm that encourages socially responsible projects.
Conflict within the Green PartyEdit
In the run-up to the June 6, 2006, primary elections in his home state, Camejo helped create a California political action committee, Green IDEA (Independence, Democracy, Empowerment, Accountability), to run candidates for California Green County Councils, the local leadership bodies of the Green Party of California. Some GreensTemplate:Who consider outside intervention in local elections to be a contravention of the Green Ten Key Values of Decentralization and Grassroots Democracy.
Peter Daniels criticized Camejo for "lend[ing] his support to the right-wing effort to depose [California governor Gray] Davis" by recall in 2004. However, other GreensTemplate:Who dispute this assessment, noting that Camejo's objections to Davis were entirely consistent with his previous attempt to unseat him the year before. In the end, the Green Party state convention easily voted to endorse Camejo as a recall replacement candidate.
As a candidate for California Governor, Camejo, along with other Green Party candidates and activists Todd Chretien, Sarah Knopp, Rachel Odes, Don Bechler, Mehul Thakker, Forrest Hill, and Donna Warren, wrote California Under Corporate Rule, which he self-published.
Camejo is the author of The SRI Advantage: Why Socially Responsible Investing Has Outperformed Financially.
In August 2008 he attended the convention of the Peace and Freedom Party in order to personally endorse Nader's presidential candidacy. At the time of his death, Camejo was engaged in writing his memoirs with the working title of "Northstar".
- Camejo 2006 campaign website
- Green IDEA
- Official VoteCircle Profile
- Rigged Convention, Divided Party by Carol Miller and Forest Hill
- 'Is green the color of protest?' SFGate.com, August 2006
- Radio Interview with Jo Chamberlain, Indybay, June 2006
- CNN Factsheet On Peter Camejo, 2004.
- San Francisco Chronicle campaign profile, 2002
- California election results
- The Avocado Declaration
- To Nader or Not to Nader? democracynow.org debate between Peter Camejo and David Cobb
- sf-frontlines.com article about the 2004 Green Party candidate selection (pro-Nader/Camejo)
- sf-frontlines.com article about the Nader/Camejo campaign rally in July 2004
- Peter Camejo speech at the Nader/Camejo 2004 campaign rally in San Francisco
- Progressive Asset Management website
- Mentions of Camejo during Berkeley Free Speech events
- AP obituary
- Audio of Peter Camejo being interviewed on NBC as US SWP candidate in 1976
- Peter Camejo 1939-2008: How to make a revolution in the United States (1969)/Liberalism, ultraleftism or mass action (1970)
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