Congressman Mark Takai, a Democrat from Hawaii serving his first term in the U.S. House of Representatives, died Wednesday. He was 49.
Takai, who served 20 years in the state House of Representatives before his election to Congress in 2014, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in October.
His office confirmed the congressman’s death, and released a statement saying the Takai family “thanks the people of Hawaii for their support during this difficult time.”
“Information regarding a service will be available at a later time,” the statement said. “The Takai family politely asks for the continued respect of their family’s privacy.”
Former U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa is among the candidates running to fill his seat.
President Barack Obama released a statement saying he was sad to learn of Takai’s death and that his thoughts and prayers are with the family. “Mark was always a fighter. It’s the spirit he brought to more than two decades of public service on behalf of the people of Hawaii,” he said. “He stood up for America’s most vulnerable. He championed our troops and veterans, and proudly wore our nation’s uniform. And his relentless push for cancer research inspired countless Americans fighting the same battle as him. Simply put, our country is better off because of Mark’s contributions.”
Hawaii Gov. David Ige said Takai “humbly and effectively served the people of his state House and Congressional districts.”
“In the often tumultuous world of politics, he has been a shining example of what it means to be a public servant,” Ige said.
Takai served as a member of the House Committee on Armed Services.
He was a lieutenant colonel in the Hawaii Army National Guard and took part in Operation Iraqi Freedom, serving in Kuwait in 2009.
Takai was born July 1, 1967, in Honolulu, and graduated from Pearl City High School in 1985. He earned a bachelor’s degree in 1990 and a master’s degree in 1993, both from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
He lived in Aiea on Oahu, and is survived by his wife, Sami, and two children, Matthew and Kaila.