Celebrate Women’s History Month: Learn about Doris Matsui
Congressional Representative Doris Okada Matsui was born in 1944 in the Poston War Relocation Center internment camp in Arizona, where her parents had met and married.
Her father ran a seed business prior to World War II, and her mother came from a successful farming family. Doris grew up in Dinuba, south of Fresno. She attended UC Berkeley and graduated with a degree in psychology. At Cal, she also met law student Robert Matsui, a graduate of C.K. McClatchy High School. The two were married in 1966.
Robert Matsui pursued a political career that saw him elected to the House of Representatives in 1978, where he served for 26 years.
Doris Matsui’s political career began with her early support of President Bill Clinton, which led to her being part of the transition team prior to his taking the White House. President Clinton subsequently appointed her to the White House Office of Public Liaison (OPL), a body that builds connections with the public to shape and promote presidential policies. Working under OPL director Alexis Herman, she was charged with building Asian American support for the president and his initiatives, among other duties.
She left the White House in 1998 and worked as a lobbyist for Washington law firm Collier Shannon Scott and was chairman of the board of Sacramento public television station KVIE.
Robert Matsui died after a brief illness while still in office on January 1, 2005. Encouraged by him to run for his seat just prior to his death, she opted to do so and was victorious in a special election on March 8.
She won re-election in 2006 and in three subsequent elections. She was a co-sponsor of legislation that led to the formation of the Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant program in 2006 and has spoken often on the need to keep the incarceration story alive and of her own connection to the story. She had also lobbied for redress legislation in the 1980s.