HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - U.S. Rep. Mark Takai has announced he will not seek re-election in November so that he can instead focus on fighting cancer.
Takai, 48, said in a news release Thursday that the cancer he's been fighting since October has spread.
The decision comes seven months after Takai was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Doctors found a small tumor in his pancreas, and he subsequently underwent surgery and chemotherapy.
Despite the diagnosis, Takai made clear he would be seeking re-election and said his prognosis was good.
Takai's announcement Thursday morning spurred an outpouring of support for the longtime Hawaii politician, who was elected to Congress in 2014 and served nearly 20 years in the state Legislature.
"Everybody who knows Mark knows that he's committed to his family," said state Rep. Aaron Ling Johanson, Takai's longtime friend. "I think in the end he might say it was easy to make that decision."
State Rep. John Mizuno said Takai should be commended for focusing on his health and family.
"Mark will be the first to say it's God, country and family," Mizuno said. "We certainly support Congressman Mark Takai in his decision not to run."
In a news release Thursday, Takai said that he is putting his constituents first by deciding to withdraw his re-election bid and instead "focus on getting better rather than getting re-elected."
He said he will serve the rest of his term.
"When I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last year, my family and I resolved to fight it head-on and with deep personal faith," Takai said, in the news release. "Today, we find ourselves at a crossroads. I had truly hoped to aggressively fight this cancer while seeking re-election, but I recently learned that my cancer has spread."
Earlier this year, Takai also repeatedly said that his cancer treatment was going well and that he was cleared by doctors to run for re-election. He did say he was curtailing his travel to and from Hawaii in order to keep his strength up during treatment.
Well wishes pour in
Takai's colleagues in Congress and others in Hawaii politics offered their support for the Congressman on Thursday.
"Mark is a dear friend and colleague, and my prayers are with him and his family during this difficult time," said U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, in a statement. "Mark has a servant's heart and has dedicated his life to working for the people of Hawaii. Now we can show our thanks to him and his family for their service by supporting them and their decision in every way possible."
Takai represents Hawaii's 1st Congressional district, which includes Oahu's urban areas.
In a statement, U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, said it's been an honor to serve with Takai.
"He is a great teammate and has served the people of Hawaii with integrity and aloha. I know this was a difficult decision, and my thoughts and prayers are with him and his family."
U.S. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, called Takai a dedicated public servant.
"I will miss him in this arena as a strong partner on issues we both care deeply about," she said, in a statement.
Wide-scale political impact
Takai's decision not to seek re-election could have a big impact on Hawaii's political landscape. The deadline to file papers to run for the seat is just three weeks away.
Political observer Dan Boylan believes the vacancy in Congress could impact the whole political arena -- as ambitious politicians abandon current positions to run, creating other vacancies.
"It's a game of dominoes. Once something like this happens the dominoes start to fall," he said.
Political analyst Colin Moore said people with name recognition and "who have some campaign infrastructure in place" are likely to be the most competitive contenders for the seat.
That means some familiar names could by vying for the seat.