Obituary: David Michael Howard was longtime political strategist

Published: Monday, Jul. 30, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 5B

David Michael Howard, political director for the California Association of Realtors, died July 21 of lung cancer, his family said. He was 64.

Mr. Howard was a top strategist at the state Capitol with more than 35 years of experience in political advocacy, community organizing and election campaigns. He was known as an expert in the nuts and bolts of winning at the ballot box, including polling, fundraising, executing a message and getting out the vote.

"He understood the game of politics and how to get the right people elected to help the members of his organization," lobbyist Bob Giroux said. "He was very bright."

As political affairs director since 2000, Mr. Howard managed political action committee operations and political fundraising for the California Association of Realtors. Meanwhile, he was co-editor of the California Target Book, which handicaps elections, and served on the national advisory council of the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley.

From 1998 to 2000, he was vice president of constituent relations for the California Association of Health Plans. He previously worked for AARP in Washington, D.C., and directed the group's California voter-education efforts.

Mr. Howard, who settled in Sacramento in 1995, began his career leading human services agencies in Missouri and Nebraska. His Midwestern roots shaped his pragmatic approach to politics and working with Democrats and Republicans to get things done.

"He loved where he came from, and it centered him and allowed him to not take everything that went on here so seriously all the time," political consultant Gale Kaufman said. "He had very strong values and believed very strongly in what he did."

Mr. Howard was born in 1948 and raised in St. Louis. He earned a master's degree in regional planning and community development from the University of Missouri in Columbia and received a graduate gerontology certificate from the University of Michigan.

He started working in 1973 as founding director of the Mid Missouri Regional Council on Aging. He went on to lead aging and mental health agencies in Nebraska, where Gov. James Exxon appointed him to lead the state's Commission on Aging.

He joined the Nebraska legislative staff during the 1980s and later started a government relations firm representing human services agencies, cities and public workers. He was executive director of the National Resource Center for Rural Elderly at the University of Missouri in Kansas City before joining AARP.

An avid photographer, he lived in Sacramento with wife Deborah. "We never talked about work at home," said his wife, a political consultant. "He was much more interested in life."


Born: Feb. 10, 1948

Died: July 21, 2012

Survived by: Wife, Deborah of Sacramento; mother, Doris Thayer of Stockton, Mo.

Services: Pending

Remembrances: In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Siteman Cancer Center, Washington University, Campus Box 1204, 7425 Forsyth Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63105-2161; or to Friends of IGS, c/o Institute of Governmental Studies, 109 Moses Hall, No. 2370, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-2370.

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