PHILADELPHIA — Members of the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Caucus bowed their heads Monday morning in a moment of silence to remember U.S. Rep. Mark Takai (D-HI), who died last week after a battle with pancreatic cancer.
"He cares about the issues, he cares about people," Jadine Nielsen, caucus vice chair and delegate from Hawaii, told the audience. "He really was the kind of person who took the issues seriously, and as long as I've known him he's been solid."
A short video was also shown, paying tribute to Takai's life and legacy.
Nielsen said she saw Takai a couple of months back at a kickoff event for his reelection campaign. At the time, Takai was already undergoing chemotherapy.
"To that moment, he was optimistic, he was up, he was engaged," said Nielsen, who knew Takai from his time as a Hawaii state legislator. "He really was looking forward to continue to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives."
Takai, a freshman congressman, was elected in 2014 after serving 20 years in the Hawaii State House of Representatives. In October 2015, he was diagnosed with cancer, and although his doctors had originally cleared him this past February to pursue reelection, Takai announced in May he would not run again when he discovered the cancer had spread.
Recalling a personal anecdote about Takai, Nielsen said the late congressman volunteered for a political action committee fundraiser held annually to support pro-choice Democratic women for state office.
Takai worked as a celebrity bartender, she said. He was the first one in and the last one out, always helping to clean up.
"He was a friend, a true Democrat committed to our causes, and I will miss him terribly," Nielsen said.