Updated below with comments from former Mayor Jim Hahn at 1:56 p.m.
Kam Kuwata, a veteran political consultant who worked for Sen. Dianne Feinstein and former L.A. Mayor Jim Hahn, has died. He was 57.
Kuwata was found dead in his condominium on Main Street in Venice at about 9 a.m. this morning, said LAPD Sgt. Ron Pickering. Family members had not heard from him in several days, and called police to check on his welfare.
“He was probably one of the most insightful and thoughtful guys you
could work with,” said Eric Bauman, chair of the L.A. County Democratic
“Reporters tended to respect what he had to say because he was really a straight shooter,” Bauman said. “Even as he spun you, he was a straight shooter.”
Police are handling the case as a natural death. There are no signs of foul play, Pickering said.
Kuwata consulted on Feinstein's Senate campaigns and Jim Hahn's mayoral campaigns. He also led the charge against San Fernando Valley secession in 2002.
“I've talked to a lot of people and they're just devastated,” said Bill Carrick, a consultant who worked with Kuwata. “He was a great mentor for younger people… He had literally hundreds of friends in both parties.”
Kuwata grew up in Pasadena, and got his start in politics working in Sen. Alan Cranston's mailroom. He became Cranston's spokesman and worked on Cranston's presidential campaign in 1984. From there, he worked on each of Feinstein's Senate campaigns.
He also worked last year on the Democratic Party's “CEO Watch” campaign, which targeted Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman.
Update, 1:56 p.m.: Former Mayor Jim Hahn, now a Superior Court judge, said today he is “in shock” at the news of Kuwata's death.
“He was always a calming influence,” Hahn said. “In a room full of people, Kam would be the person who would let other people talk first, then come in with some short, wise saying.”
Hahn said that Kuwata deserves “a tremendous amount” of the credit for the defeat of the secession effort.
“From the very beginning, polls showed secession was winning by a big margin. It was going to be difficult to overcome the long festering aggravation of people who felt they hadn't been listened to,” Hahn said. “He spent a lot of time strategizing and really dealing with perceptions. It was a tremendous come-from-behind victory.”
“I'm sure going to miss him,” Hahn said.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa issued the following statement: “I am shocked to hear of the passing of Kam Kuwata. Kam gave a lifetime to politics and public service. My prayers are with his family and large network of colleagues and friends during this difficult time.”
And here's a statement from Sen. Dianne Feinstein:
“I am deeply saddened at the passing of Kam Kuwata. California has lost a sharp political mind, and I've lost a loyal and dear friend of more than 20 years.
Kam managed my first Senate campaign in 1992. We went through a lot together in those days, and no matter the circumstances, I could always rely on Kam's great sense of humor, his good advice and his compassion for the people of California. He was respected by people in politics and journalism, something I always thought spoke volumes about the kind of person he was.
I am shocked by Kam's death and reminded at how short life is. There will never be another like Kam, and I will miss him.”
Gov. Jerry Brown:
“Kam Kuwata was a knowledgeable and insightful voice in California politics. His analytical skills, coupled with his gentle approach to a tough business, earned him the respect and friendship of his allies and opponents alike. Kam's wisdom and graciousness will be missed.”