HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Congressman Mark Takai, who's undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer, was a last-minute cancellation at the Hawaii Democratic Party Convention in Waikiki Sunday..
But through his campaign manager, Takai endorsed former Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa.
"I intend to do all I can to elect a progressive champion to represent Hawaii and Congress," said Dylan Beesley, Takai's campaign manager, who read from a statement prepared by Takai.
"Someone like Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa who can deliver ... someone like Colleen Hanabusa who can deliver resources and results for Hawaii."
Hanabusa said she's honored by Takai's support.
"I have mixed emotions because I am very sad by the fact that Mark is in the condition that he is and I still want everyone to have their prayers and good wishes for Mark and his family," Hanabusa said.
The 48-year-old Takai announced earlier this month that he will serve the remainder of his term --- but will then step down to concentrate on his cancer treatment.
"It's a great loss to Hawaii to know that someone like Mark who has a true servant's heart is going through such a difficult time," said Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, (D) Hawaii.
Added former Gov. John Waihee: "We obviously miss him. I think he had an important future for Hawaii."
Waihee believes Hanabusa is a natural choice for Takai's endorsement.
"I think that's a great endorsement. And I think it was her seat and she filled it well and I think she'll do so again," the former governor said.
But other experts said the endorsement is no guarantee that Hanabusa will win -- especially if former Republican Congressman Charles Djou jumps in the race.
"She may be the odds on favorite to get the nomination of the Democrats. But I think there's likely to be a strong effort by Republicans," said political analyst Dan Boylan.
Hanabusa, meanwhile, says she plans to formally announced her candidacy later this week.
But she said she has no plans to immediately step down as chairwoman of the rail authority's board after checking with experts.
Hanabusa was recently elected board chair of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation and has vowed to bring more transparency to the state's largest-ever public works project.
"Contrary to popular belief, it is not a paid position, I can actually serve almost as long as I feel that it doesn't interfere with anything else," Hanabusa said.