Freshman Congressman Mark Takai, a Democrat who represented Hawaii, passed away on Wednesday after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 49. According to a statement released by his office, he died at home, surrounded by his family.
Takai was elected to represent Hawaii’s 1st district in 2015 after two decades in the state legislature. The congressman had announced earlier this year that he would not seek re-election because the cancer had spread, telling constituents, “Right now, for the sake of my family, I need to focus on getting better rather than getting re-elected.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi released a statement regarding Takai’s passing, in which she commends her colleague for “confront[ing] his diagnosis with the spirit we all hope we would share when facing such an awful disease.”
Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus chair Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) commended Takai for “[leading] notable efforts to benefit the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander community, including efforts to reunite Filipino World War II veterans with their loved ones, secure treatment for veterans suffering from service-related radiation exposure, and commemorate the patriotism of Japanese Americans during World War II.”
Many other political heavyweights paid their respects to Takai, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, Democratic National Convention chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro.