Citing health concerns, U.S. Rep. Mark Takai, the Democrat of Hawaii, announced Thursday that he will not seek re-election this year.

Takai’s office released the following statement:

“In life, we often make plans for ourselves. I had envisioned a long career in the U.S. House of Representatives, building up the seniority and influence that were key to Senator Inouye’s ability to deliver for Hawaii. But as often happens, we find ourselves on a different journey than what we had planned.

“When I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last year, my family and I resolved to fight it head-on and with deep personal faith. Today, we find ourselves at a crossroads. I had truly hoped to aggressively fight this cancer while seeking re-election, but I recently learned that my cancer has spread.

“Putting Hawaii and its people first means that I must regretfully withdraw from my 2016 re-election race for Congress and suspend my campaign. Right now, for the sake of my family, I need to focus on getting better rather than getting re-elected.”

Takai said he intends to serve out the remainder of his term in Congress, which ends in early January 2017.

Congressman Mark Takai editorial board1. 29 march 2016.
Congressman Mark Takai at a Civil Beat editorial board earlier this year. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

He thanked his family, friends and supporters “for their unwavering love and support.”

Takai’s office said in Thursday’s press release, “At this time, Congressman Takai asks for continued respect of our family’s privacy as we move forward with treatment.”

Support From Colleagues

Statements from his Democratic colleagues in Washington, D.C., were issued within minutes of the announcement.

“I will miss him in this arena as a strong partner on issues we both care deeply about, and will continue to do so through the rest of his term,” said U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono. “I have affectionately called Mark my younger brother for many years and I wish Mark and his family all the best.”

He is a great teammate and has served the people of Hawai‘i with integrity and aloha,” said U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz. “I know this was a difficult decision, and my thoughts and prayers are with him and his family.”

Mark Takai speaks to supporters after coming out after the third printout at the Democratic Party of Hawaii's Democratic Coordinated Election Night Celebration held at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii. 4 November 2014. photograph by Cory Lum
Mark Takai speaks to supporters after winning a seat in the U.S. Congress in 2014. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

“Mark is a dear friend and colleague, and my prayers are with him and his family during this difficult time,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. “We’ve served together over the years in many capacities — as colleagues in the Hawaii State House, as Soldiers in the Hawaii Army National Guard, and now in Congress. Mark has a servant’s heart and has dedicated his life to working for the people of Hawaii.”

In the islands, praise and condolences also quickly emerged.

“I need to focus on getting better rather than getting re-elected.”—Rep. Mark Takai

“For many years Mark has wholeheartedly served the people of Hawaii, and our communities are better off because of his tireless efforts,” said Gov. David Ige, who is on the mainland this week for a daughter’s graduation. “I thank him for his military service to our nation, his skilled representation of his constituents in Congress, and his advocacy on behalf of Aiea/Pearl City residents at the State Legislature.”

“My heartfelt thoughts are with Congressman Mark Takai as he continues his courageous battle with cancer and I wish him a full, healthy recovery,” said Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui. “Although I’m sorry to hear that Mark will not be seeking another term of office, I understand first and foremost that his health and well-being are his top priority.”

Said House Speaker Joe Souki, “I first met Mark when he was the student body president of UH Manoa. I was the Chairman of the House Finance Committee and he came in all the time to lobby for a new basketball arena. He was very persistent and very competitive. When he came to the Legislature he brought that same kind of persistence and competitive spirit and for 20 years worked tirelessly for his constituents and the people of Hawaii.”

Early Diagnosis Of Cancer

The first-term congressman, 48, announced in November that he had pancreatic cancer.

“All tests show that the tumor is small and isolated,” he said at that time.

He soon began treatment and, with the consent of his medical doctor, said in February that he would seek a second term.

“He said, ‘Go for it, you should definitely run for re-election.’ So, they have cleared me for that,” Takai said.

But Takai faces a difficult fight.

The National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health says that incidences of carcinoma of the pancreas have significantly increased in recent decades, making it the fourth-leading cause of death from cancer in the country.

Takai’s illness has led to a number of missed votes in the U.S. House of Representatives, including several on the day of the announcement that he would not run.

Beat Large Field In 2014

Takai is a lieutenant colonel in the Hawaii Army National Guard and took part in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

A former student president and newspaper editor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, he was elected to the state House of Representatives at the age of 27 in 1994, and served there for 20 years. He represented the Aiea-Pearl City area on Oahu.

Takai defeated six other Democrats in the primary two years ago to fill the seat held by Colleen Hanabusa, who unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz.

25 may 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Congressman Mark Takai during memorial services held at the National Cemetery of the Pacific. Punchbowl Cemetery, Memorial Day 2015. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

He then defeated Republican Charles Djou, a former congressman, in the general election.

Takai has focused on veterans issues, the U.S. military, national security and small business while in office.

Congressional seats from Hawaii don’t often open, and the announcement that he will not run is certain to set off a scramble to replace him in Congress.

There is not much time, however, as the deadline to file to run is June 7.

Takai’s departure and speculation over his successor is bound to be a major topic of discussion at the Democratic Party of Hawaii‘s state convention in Waikiki over Memorial Day weekend.

Meanwhile, the Hawaii Republican Party’s convention is Saturday on Oahu.

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