Charles M. Campion, a Brookline, MA resident addicted to politics from the start, knew he had hit the big time when he became the assistant campaign manager for a candidate for state representative who was running in the West Roxbury neighborhood of Boston.
Mr. Campion was 9 at the time.
But he had found his chosen career. By the time he died on Wednesday at 62 in Boston, he had become a stalwart of Democratic campaigns, a co-founder of the Dewey Square Group, a public affairs consultancy in Boston, and a key operative for presidential candidates, including Walter F. Mondale, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton.
His wife, Heather Campion, said the cause was complications of surgery. He had a history of kidney trouble, requiring three transplants.
In a career that witnessed enormous changes in political campaigns, with the rise of cable news and the transformative influence of the internet, Mr. Campion, who was universally known as Chuck, relied on political instinct, personal connections and the power of a knock on the door.
“I would say the political fundamentals which he learned on the streets of Boston, he was still applying in the streets of Michigan for Hillary Clinton in 2016,” said Senator Edward J. Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, a close friend who was advised by Mr. Campion. “Chuck’s philosophy was that the message should be direct, simple and to the heart of the issue.”
Mr. Campion came up in Massachusetts politics as a member of Gov. Michael S. Dukakis’s administration from 1975 to 1978. He went on to work for President Jimmy Carter on advance planning.
It was in Washington that he got to know Mr. Mondale, the vice president under Mr. Carter. Mr. Mondale’s presidential campaign in 1984 would be Mr. Campion’s first.
“Politics is a fickle game,” he said in an interview with the media in 1983 as he was building a campaign operation for Mr. Mondale in New Hampshire in advance of the state’s primary. No matter how bright a candidate’s prospects seem, he said, “you’re always worried about winning.”
New Hampshire was a case in point. Though Mr. Mondale led in the polls, he lost the primary in a stunning upset by Gary Hart, then a little-known senator from Colorado. (Mr. Mondale nevertheless went on to win the Democratic nomination before losing to President Ronald Reagan in a landslide.)
Mr. Campion came to know more losses working for other presidential campaigns, including those of Mr. Dukakis in 1988 (Mr. Campion was its political director), Vice President Al Gore in 2000 and Senator Kerry in 2004.
The Dewey Square Group said that in 2008, as an adviser to Mrs. Clinton’s first presidential run, it was Mr. Campion who arranged coffee events with voters ahead of the New Hampshire primary, including one at a coffee shop where she cried in conversation with a voter, generating wide publicity.
“He was a magician in understanding a community he hadn’t been into,” Mr. Kerry said. “He ran Michigan for me, and we won Michigan.”
Mr. Campion’s friends and family said he had been undeterred by the losses. “He never got discouraged, he never quit,” Ms. Campion said. “You have your values, you just keep going.”
As a founder of the Dewey Square Group, in 1993, and its chairman, Mr. Campion was familiar to Boston’s political scene. Sometimes he wrote jokes for the annual St. Patrick’s Day breakfast, an all-but-mandatory event for the local political class. He wrote one in 2003 for Mr. Kerry, who had recently discovered that he had Jewish ancestors.
“So who said I don’t have the matzo balls to be here today?” Mr. Kerry said, to laughter.
Mr. Campion was born in Boston on Aug. 20, 1955, the middle child and only son in a family of five children. A product of Brookline High School, he was a political science major at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, graduating in 1977. He met his wife, the former Heather Pars, while he was working in the Carter administration. She was a speechwriter for the president.
In addition to his wife, with whom he lived in Brookline, Mass., Mr. Campion is survived by their son, Maxwell; their daughter, Courtney Campion; his sisters, Rosella, Suzanne, Tracy and Leigh, all with the surname Campion; a half brother, Christian Richard; and his mother, Mary Donlan Richard.
Mr. Campion’s family said he did not slow down in his later years, even as he endured the three kidney transplants. In one instance, five years ago, his wife said, 37 people stepped forward to be tested as possible donors.
“He had more best friends that anyone I know,” she said.