It’s official: U.S. Rep. Mark Takai is running for re-election.

He signaled as much in a Civil Beat story earlier this month that drew attention to the preparations he was making to seek another term in the congressional seat to which he was elected in 2014. Then, he handily won a crowded Democratic primary and solidly beat former Rep. Charles Djou in the general election.

Takai has enjoyed a solid first term, outperforming expectations, Hawaii federal delegation insiders say.

“People say, ‘You’re in the minority, you’re a freshman, you can’t get anything done,’” he said Wednesday, in a conversation at a Kaimuki coffee bar, as part of a round of media visits around Honolulu. “Not true. You can. And we did.”

Congressman Mark Takai in his Washington, D.C., office in 2015.

Rep. Mark Takai in his Washington, D.C., office in 2015.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Takai has proven himself savvy at working the margins of the legislative process, getting some 19 amendments inserted into appropriations bills and successfully championing new programs to help veterans, women, Native Hawaiians, small business owners and the national defense.

He drew attention to two of those Wednesday. Created through an amendment he inserted in the National Defense Authorization Act, the Military to Maritime Program is intended to help service members completing their stints in the Navy, Marines and Coast Guard transition to private sector jobs similar to those they’ve performed in the military.

The program includes support to help those veterans meet licensure requirements, obtain necessary certificates of registry or other private-sector standards.

Takai has proven himself savvy at working the margins of the legislative process, championing new programs to help veterans, women, Native Hawaiians, small business owners and the national defense.

Takai also expanded federal contracting opportunities for Native Hawaiians with another amendment to the defense bill that granted “HUBZone” status to Native Hawaiian organizations. The Historically Underutilized Business Zones program was created by the Small Business Administration to help qualifying businesses compete in the federal contract process.

When he hasn’t been battling the legislative process, he’s much more visibly been battling cancer. His diagnosis of pancreatic cancer — caught early, he says — was announced last November. Treatment began immediately and continues at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine’s Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, one of the world’s leading research and treatment centers.

Takai looks and says he feels like his old self. He’s put on much of the weight that treatments caused him to lose in November, December and January. Even as treatments continue, he says he’s up to the nonstop rigors of a campaign — an assessment that he says his doctors and his family fully support.

While no significant challenger has come forward yet, several relatively unknown Democratic and Libertarian candidates have pulled paperwork indicating they’re preparing to file. Takai is sure they won’t be the last.

“We’re going to run as if we were running two years ago,” he said. “I’m more motivated than ever to work for the people of Hawaii.”

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