Tim Howe, a lobbyist and political consultant who was a top aide to Democratic lawmakers, died Friday of a heart attack while cycling on the American River Parkway, his family said. He was 66.
A veteran of the state Capitol, Mr. Howe got his start in politics in 1965 as an aide in the Legislative Bill Room. He left to earn a political science degree from UCLA in 1968 and received a master's degree from the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University in New Jersey in 1970.
He returned to California to work for Assembly Speakers Jesse Unruh, Bob Moretti and Leo McCarthy, and joined the Assembly Majority Consultants during the early 1970s. After graduating from UC Davis School of Law in 1978, he ran Assemblyman Vic Fazio's successful campaign for Congress and served as his chief of staff in Washington, D.C.
He earned a master of law degree in taxation at Georgetown University in Washington and practiced law in Sacramento from 1981 to 1987.
Mr. Howe returned to the Capitol in 1988 as chief of staff for Assemblyman Lloyd Connelly. He wrote a successful 1988 initiative backed by Connelly, Proposition 99, to raise the state tobacco tax by 25 cents. He helped draft bills to regulate generic drug substitutions and is credited with laying the foundation for laws that prohibit genetic discrimination in employment and insurance coverage.
He left the Capitol in 1992 after Connelly was elected a Sacramento Superior Court judge and then worked as a lobbyist for George Steffes and Associates. He went on to open his own lobbying firm, Tim Howe and Associates, which he ran until his death.
"Tim really loved politics," lobbyist Billy Rutland said. "He did legislative work and ran campaigns, and knew so much about it. He was very well respected and well liked by everybody."
Timothy John Howe was born in Sacramento in 1946 to John and Evonne Howe. He graduated from McClatchy High School in 1963.
He had two children during an early marriage that ended in divorce. While working for Fazio, he met Patricia Habel, an office intern who went on to a prominent career at the Capitol as a legislative chief of staff and education undersecretary. They married in 1985, had a son, and were together until her death from lung cancer in 2010.
A Carmichael resident, Mr. Howe had many interests outside politics, including reading, traveling and collecting coins, stamps and baseball memorabilia. He swam daily during the summer, practiced hot yoga and enjoyed cycling. He served on the board of the American River Foundation.
His sudden death saddened colleagues, who called him a brilliant political consultant and generous mentor to legislative workers. Kathy Dresslar, chief of staff to state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, recalled advice he gave years after he hired her out of college to work at the Capitol on the recommendation of a professor.
"This can be an insular place that's tough to break into," Dresslar said. "Tim told me always to remember to look outside the Capitol for talented people who are interested in public service."