Robert T. Matsui was an American politician from the state of California. Matsui was a member of the Democratic Party and served 13 terms in the U.S. House of Representatives as the congressman for California's fifth congressional district. He was a chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, ranking member of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security, and third-ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee when he died in office suddenly after being diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome, a rare stem cell disorder. During his term he was noted for his staunch opposition to privatization of Social Security and his role in the passage of the Japanese-American Redress Act.
A third-generation Japanese American, Matsui was born in Sacramento, California 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 Camp in 1942.
Matsui graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 1963 with a BA in political science, and then graduated from Hastings College of Law. He founded his own Sacramento law practice in 1967 and was elected to the Sacramento City Council in 1971. He won re-election in 1975 and became vice mayor of the city in 1977. In the 1978 election, Matsui ran for the House and won.
In 1988, Matsui succeeded in helping pass the Japanese-American Redress Act, 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.
He was married to the former Doris Okada, who is Senior Advisor and Director of Government Relations at the firm of Collier Shannon Scott, PLLC. Until December 1998, Doris Matsui worked as Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of Public Liaison for President Bill Clinton. The Matsuis had one son, Brian, who received his undergraduate and law degrees from Stanford University.
In the 2004 federal election, he faced Republican Mike Dugas as his strongest opponent in the General Election for the 5th Congressional District. Matsui was re-elected to office with 71.4f the vote, compared to Dugas' 23.4ąGreen Party opponent Pat Driscoll and John Reiger of the Peace and Freedom Party won 3.4
nd 1.8f the vote, respectively. (DCCC chairs are chosen in part because they are not expected to face serious competition for re-election.)
Matsui entered Bethesda Naval Hospital on December 24, 2004 with pneumonia. 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 on January 1, 2005 at 10:10 p.m. EDT.
In the special election held on March 8, 2005 to fill the vacant 5th Congressional District seat, Matsui's widow, Doris, won the seat with more than 71 percent of the vote. She was sworn in on March 10, 2005.