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Hawaii Rep. Mark Takai Dies at 49

Freshman Democrat had battled pancreatic cancer since 2015

Hawaii Rep. Mark Takai, who died Wednesday, was serving his first term in the House. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Hawaii Rep. Mark Takai, who died Wednesday, was serving his first term in the House. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Hawaii Democratic Rep. Mark Takai died Wednesday after battling pancreatic cancer, his office confirmed.  

In May , he announced he would not seek re-election because his cancer had spread. He first received the diagnosis in October 2015  and underwent surgery the following month to remove a small tumor.  

Takai was first elected to the House in 2014, having previously served 20 years in the Hawaii State House where he was vice speaker from 2005-06.   

He was a lieutenant colonel in the Hawaii National Guard and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.  

In Congress , he served on the Armed Services and Small Business committees.  

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement that through his public service, Takai “embodied our nation’s highest ideals.”

“In his fight against cancer, Mark showed the courage and strength that defined the wonderful person he was,” she said. 

Members of Hawaii’s all-Democratic congressional delegation also released statements of condolences. 

“Mark’s smiling face and ready laugh will truly be missed,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.  

“He gave so much, and had so much more yet to give,” said Sen. Brian Schatz, while Sen. Mazie Hirono, who said she affectionately called Takai her “younger brother,” added that his “passing is a tremendous loss for all of us who loved him, and for the state of Hawaii.”   

One of Takai’s latest pushes was for House leadership to allow Hawaiian shirts on the floor on Fridays . In February, the congressman hand-delivered a Hawaiian shirt to Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin.  

During the Democratic retreat in Baltimore in January, Takai shared a moment with Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. about his son, Beau. Biden and President Barack Obama had announced their cancer moonshot effort at the State of the Union address earlier that month.  

Takai was a Democratic superdelegate who had pledged his support for Hillary Clinton.  

With Takai’s death, the party ratio in the House now stand at 247 Republicans to 186 Democrats.  

Democrats and Republicans offered their condolences on Twitter.

Takai is survived by his wife, Sami Takai, and two children, Matthew and Kaila.

Lindsey McPherson and Bridget Bowman contributed to this report.

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