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In Memoriam: Kam Kuwata, 57

Kam Kuwata, a political science alumnus, was one of California's leading Democratic political strategists.

Kam Kuwata ’75 at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colo. Photo courtesy of Bill Carrick.
Kam Kuwata ’75 at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colo. Photo courtesy of Bill Carrick.

USC Dornsife alumnus and political strategist Kam Kuwata, who worked for Senator Dianne Feinstein and late Senator Alan Cranston, has died. He was 57.

Kuwata died in his Venice, Calif., home on April 11.

His sudden death stunned the political world, and resulted in a flood of tributes and memories from politicians and reporters from both major parties.

Among many others, President Barack Obama, California Governor Jerry Brown, Senator Barbara Boxer and Senator Feinstein remembered Kuwata for his brilliance in the field of political strategy, sense of humor, compassion and gentle nature. On a Facebook page dedicated to Kuwata’s memory, facebook.com/rememberingkam, the impact he had on countless lives as a colleague and friend is clear in the hundreds of memories and photos posted in the last week.

Bill Carrick, a fellow Democratic strategist and campaign partner, remembers his friend for much more than his work. “Kam Kuwata was a smart and savvy political mind who was deeply committed to his causes and candidates. But Kam was also a wonderful friend, mentor and teacher. Generous beyond compare.”

Kuwata was born on Oct. 1, 1953, in the Bay Area and raised in Sierra Madre, Calif. He attended Pasadena High School and was noted in memorial tributes for his early interest in civil rights.

After graduating from USC Dornsife in 1975 with a degree in political science, Kuwata began his career as a mail clerk for Senator Cranston, and eventually became the senator’s spokesman for his presidential campaign in 1984.

In 1992, Kuwata managed Senator Feinstein’s campaign for the U.S. Senate seat she still holds. Kuwata has also worked with Hawaii Senator Daniel Akaka, former Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn and Jane Harman, former United States Representative for California’s 36th district. In 2008, Kuwata assisted Obama’s campaign team with the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colo.

“Kam Kuwata was not only a brilliant political strategist, but much more importantly, a good, decent and kind person,” said Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics housed in USC Dornsife, who knew Kuwata for 20 years through his work in California politics. “I am proud to have known him as a friend, and I hope his devotion to public service and his innate integrity will be an example for young people of all political persuasions.”

Kuwata is survived by his mother and brother. A memorial service will be held on May 1 in Santa Monica. Information can be found at www.celebratekam.com.