Welcome to Ad Watch, an occasional Civil Beat series in which we analyze campaign messages from Hawaii candidates.

State Rep. Mark Takai’s campaign distributed an election video last week. He’s running in a crowded field for the 1st Congressional District seat being vacated by Rep. Colleen Hanabusa.

The spot is just over two minutes long, and it’s posted on YouTube and his campaign website. For many voters in urban Oahu, it may serve as an introduction to a politician who, although he has served in the state House for 20 years, is not a household name.

The video may also be the only time you’ll see a Hawaii candidate for high office wearing a Speedo.

First, have a look:

The video begins with the candidate doing laps at the Pearl City swimming pool where he spent much of his youth. Takai, it turns out, won awards for his stroke strength and was able to attend the University of Hawaii on an athletic scholarship.

The lessons Takai learned from swimming — “digging deeper and never giving up” — are the traits, he tells viewers, that have sustained him through his more than two decades of public service. (The spot is actually titled “Digging Deeper.”)

The ad neatly touches several key points that will appeal to a lot of voters: He’s a local boy, and he went to UH where he was both editor of the student newspaper and president of student government. The ad shows a headline from Ka Leo of Hawaii, the UH student newspaper, to demonstrate how Takai as editor was sued by some UH employees for publishing stories on sexual harassment.

“I never backed down because it was the right thing to do,” he says, staring straight into the camera.

Takai was elected to the House at the tender age of 27, and there are wonderful period photos of the cherub-faced rep. Fresher footage shows him with his wife and kids as the father-husband proclaims the couple’s dedication to public education. No private school education for this Pearl City boy — a possible man-of-the-people swipe at CD 1 opponents Stanley Chang (Iolani) and Ikaika Anderson (Kamehameha).

Perhaps the best selling point for Takai in “Digging Deeper” shows him in uniform when he served in Operation Iraqi Freedom. There is also a photograph of former U.S. Sen. Dan Akaka and Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui with Takai when he was promoted to lieutenant colonel in the Hawaii Army National Guard. (The scene includes words across the bottom of the screen explaining that use of the photo does not reflect an endorsement from the Pentagon.)

Recall how well Tulsi Gabbard parlayed her own veteran status to congressional electoral success in 2012. Takai is the only veteran in the CD 1 race; Akaka also served, and Hawaii’s greatest senator, Dan Inouye, was a highly decorated World War II veteran.

His military stint in the Middle East got Takai thinking about dependence on foreign oil. His home has solar panels, and he drives an electric car. His work in the House involved getting Hawaii to “invest in a new green economy.”

Takai ends with a Democratic primary-friendly jab at “tea party extremists” who would rather shut down government than protect Social Security and Medicare (cue up the clip of auntie) and military preparedness.

The last photo is a bare-chested Takai in the pool, his laps completed.

There are many more ads to come from many candidates. But Takai has set the bar high in this smooth, personable and appealing video.

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