Bob Matsui

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Bob Matsui
Robert matsui.jpg
Chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee
In office
January 3, 2003 – January 1, 2005
LeaderNancy Pelosi
Preceded byNita Lowey
Succeeded byRahm Emanuel
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
In office
January 3, 1979 – January 1, 2005
Preceded byJohn E. Moss
Succeeded byDoris Matsui
Constituency3rd district (1979–1993)
5th district (1993–2005)
Treasurer of the Democratic National Committee
In office
September 8, 1991[1] – May 17, 1995[2]
Preceded byRobert Farmer
Succeeded byRobert Scott Pastrick
Member of the Sacramento City Council from the 8th District
In office
November 1971[3] – November 8, 1978[4]
Succeeded byPatrick Donovan
Personal details
Robert Takeo Matsui

(1941-09-17)September 17, 1941
Sacramento, California, U.S.
DiedJanuary 1, 2005(2005-01-01) (aged 63)
Bethesda, Maryland, U.S.
Resting placeEast Lawn Memorial Park
East Sacramento, California
Political partyDemocratic
(m. 1966)
Children1 son
EducationUniversity of California, Berkeley (BA)
University of California, Hastings (JD)

Robert Takeo Matsui (September 17, 1941 – January 1, 2005)[5] was an American politician from the state of California. Matsui was a member of the Democratic Party and served in the U.S. House of Representatives as the congressman for California's 5th congressional district from 1979 until his death at the end of his 13th term.[5][6]

The Robert T. Matsui United States Courthouse in Sacramento is named in his honor.[7]

Early life and education[edit]

A third-generation Japanese American, Matsui was born in Sacramento, California,[5] and was six months old when he and his family were taken from Sacramento and interned by the U.S. government at the Tule Lake War Relocation Center in 1942.[8]

Matsui graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 1963 with a BA in political science, and then from the Hastings College of Law in 1966.[5] He founded his own Sacramento law practice in 1967.[8]

Political career[edit]

Matsui greeting President Jimmy Carter in 1978
Congressman Bob Matsui with Geraldine Ferraro and Tom Hsieh at the 1984 Democratic National Convention in San Francisco
Elijah Cummings, Xavier Becerra, and Robert Matsui at a press conference on civil rights in 1997

In 1971, Matsui was elected to the Sacramento City Council.[8] He won re-election in 1975 and became vice mayor of the city in 1977.[8]

In 1978, Matsui ran for the Democratic nomination in what was then the 3rd District after 12-term incumbent John E. Moss announced his retirement. He won a five-way Democratic primary with 36 percent of the vote, besting a field that included State Assemblyman Eugene Gualco and Sacramento Mayor Phil Isenberg.[9]

He defeated Republican Sandy Smolley with 53 percent of the vote.[10] He would never face another contest nearly that close in what has long been the most Democratic district in interior California, and would be reelected 13 times. After his initial contest, he never dropped below 68 percent of the vote. He was reelected in 1982 with no major-party opposition, and was unopposed in 1984.[11] His district was renumbered as the 5th District after the 1990 Census.

In 1988, Matsui succeeded in helping pass the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which produced an official apology from the Federal government for the World War II internment program and offered token compensation to victims. He was also instrumental in the designation of Manzanar internment camp as a national historic site and in obtaining land in Washington, D.C. for the memorial to Japanese-American patriotism in World War II.[citation needed]

He was a chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, ranking member of the United States House Committee on Ways and Means, and third-ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee. During his term he was noted for his staunch opposition to privatization of Social Security. He had a mostly liberal voting record having opposed the Defense of Marriage Act, the ban on partial-birth abortions, and the Private Securities and Litigations Reform Act.[citation needed]

In what would be his last election, 2004, he faced Republican Mike Dugas and easily won a 14th term with 71.4% of the vote, compared to Dugas' 23.4%. Opponents Pat Driscoll (Green Party) and John Reiger (Peace and Freedom Party), won 3.4% and 1.8% of the vote, respectively.[12] (DCCC chairs are chosen in part because they are not expected to face serious competition for re-election.)

Personal life[edit]

He was married to Doris Okada who, until December 1998, worked as deputy assistant to the President and Deputy Director of Public Liaison for President Bill Clinton, leaving to become senior advisor and director of government relations at the firm of Collier Shannon Scott, PLLC before winning election to her late husband's seat. The Matsuis had one son, Brian, who received his undergraduate and law degree from Stanford University.


On December 24, 2004, Matsui entered Bethesda Naval Hospital with pneumonia.[6] It was a complication from myelodysplastic syndrome, a rare stem cell disorder that causes an inability of the bone marrow to produce blood products, such as red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. He died of pneumonia on January 1, 2005.[13][14]

In the special election on March 8 to fill the vacant seat, Matsui's widow Doris won with over 68 percent of the vote;[15] she was sworn in on March 10, 2005.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Democrats Pick '92 Money Men". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Vol. 113, no. 251. September 8, 1991. p. 3B – via
  2. ^ Sample, Herbert A. (May 18, 1995). "Matsui is promoted to Demo's No. 3 post". The Sacramento Bee. Vol. 277, no. 2780 (Final ed.). p. B1 – via
  3. ^ "Our Campaigns - Sacramento City Council- District 8 Race - Sep 21, 1971".
  4. ^ "Our Campaigns - Sacramento City Council- District 8 Race - Sep 23, 1975".
  5. ^ a b c d "Biographical Directory of the United States Congress". Library of Congress. Retrieved January 9, 2007.
  6. ^ a b "Congressman dies of rare disease". January 3, 2005. Retrieved January 9, 2007.
  7. ^ "The Voter's Self Defense System". Vote Smart. Retrieved January 13, 2018.
  8. ^ a b c d "Official biography". Archived from the original on December 8, 2004. Retrieved April 18, 2017.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link),; retrieved January 9, 2007.
  9. ^ 1978 Democratic primary results in California's 3rd congressional district,; accessed January 13, 2018.
  10. ^ "Our Campaigns - CA District 3 Race - Nov 07, 1978". Retrieved January 13, 2018.
  11. ^ "Our Campaigns - Candidate - Robert T. Matsui". Retrieved January 13, 2018.
  12. ^ "General Election results, U.S. Congressional district 5". California Secretary of State. December 7, 2004. Archived from the original on March 23, 2007. Retrieved January 9, 2007.
  13. ^ Harris, Gardiner (January 13, 2018). "Representative Robert T. Matsui, 63, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved January 13, 2018.
  14. ^ "Rep. Robert Matsui dies". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). Associated Press. January 3, 2005. p. A3.
  15. ^ "Special Election Results, United States Congress, District 5" (PDF). California Secretary of State. March 8, 2005. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 15, 2006. Retrieved January 9, 2007.
  16. ^ Doris Matsui's official biography Archived December 27, 2006, at the Wayback Machine, retrieved on January 9, 2007

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 3rd congressional district

Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 5th congressional district

Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by Chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee
Succeeded by