Late Hawai‘i Congressman Lauded As ‘Fierce Advocate’ For Pacific Islands

Takai, who pushed for greater Compact impact funding, passes away from pancreatic cancer

By Shawn Raymundo

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, July 22, 2016) – A Hawaii congressman who lived briefly in Guam and also sponsored legislation that would help the territory and his home state receive more federal funding for costs associated with migrants died Wednesday.

Freshman Rep. Mark Takai, 49, of Hawaii had been battling pancreatic cancer for the last nine months, according to news reports.

Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo in a statement said her colleague and friend was an advocate for the Pacific islands.

She noted that Takai briefly lived in Guam, “which helped inform his perspectives on the challenges affecting the territories.”

“I am deeply saddened by the passing of my good friend,” Bordallo said in a press release. “Mark was a fierce advocate for the people of Hawaii and championed issues important to the (Asian American and Pacific Islander) community.”

Although their time working together in the U.S. House of Representatives was short, Bordallo and Takai cosponsored legislation meant to provide more federal subsidies for states and territories impacted by the Compacts of Free Association.

Bordallo backed the congressman’s bill, H.R. 854, the Compact Impact Aid Act of 2015, which would provide $185 million a year to the states and territories that take in COFA migrants instead of the $30 million those places currently get annually.

The measure was last referred to the House subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs in March 2015.

Most recently, Takai also cosponsored Bordallo’s measure that proposed to give U.S. citizens and nationals priority for Guam Housing and Urban Renewal Authority programs.

“Further, as a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I worked with him closely on several issues, and I appreciated his insights and views, especially his experiences as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Hawaii Army National Guard,” she said. “I will miss him, and my thoughts and prayers are with his family and the people of Hawaii during this difficult time.”

Before being elected to congressional office in 2014, Takai, served in the Hawaii House of Representatives for 20 years, including two as vice speaker. He represented Aiea/Pearl City, an area near Pearl Harbor, USA Today reported.

After only 10 months of holding office, Takai announced last October, that he had been diagnosed with a small tumor on his pancreas. The first-term congressman went through surgery to have the tumor removed last November.

Although Takai had expressed optimism about his recovery, he announced in May that he would not seek re-election as the cancer had spread, according to national news reports. His current term would have ended in January 2017.

Born and raised in Oahu, Takai graduated from Pearl City High School and later the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where he swam for the college. He leaves behind his wife, Sami Takai, and two children, Matthew and Kaila.

Several House representatives, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, have taken to Twitter to express their condolences to the Takai family and praise their colleague for his battle against cancer.

Pelosi tweeted that she was heartbroken by Takai's death, adding, "even in the face of cancer, (Takai) was courageous."

Pacific Daily News
Copyright © 2016 Guam Pacific Daily News. All Rights Reserved

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