State Representative Mark Takai (D-Aiea) added to the forever changed the landscape of legislative representation in Aiea and Pearl City with his announcement today that he will run for Congress in Hawaii’s First Congressional District.He made the announcement this afternoon fronting the Eternal Flame, across from the Hawaii State Capitol.
Takai will be running for the vacated U.S. House of Representative seat formerly held by Colleen Hanabusa who is running for the late Senator Daniel Inouye's U.S. Senate seat.
Takai has spent the last 19 years in the Hawaii House of Representatives, representing Aiea and Pearl City. As a former Vice Speaker of the House, he has been a champion for such issues as protecting our seniors, and has also led the effort to create a new clean energy economy and jobs. With regard to paying for higher education, Takai authored the Hawaii College Savings Program, which is designed to make a college education more accessible and affordable for Hawaii’s next generation.
One of his goals is to look out for Hawaii's middle class and to ease the financial burden on families while improving their quality of life. If elected to Congress, he will expand his efforts on national level as well.
Takai is also a war veteran and was recently promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in the Hawaii Army National
Guard. Takai served overseas as a part of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2009.
MyPearlCity.com got the chance to sit down with Rep.Takai to discuss the issues mentioned above as well as a few other pressing issues such as military spending and military readiness to defend Hawaii and our nation. Takai's experience as a state legislator and military officer allowed him to answer the questions posed truthfully while offering solutions that hinged on whoever is elected to Congress can effectively reach across the isle to break the gridlock in Congress that has worked against the benifit and welfare of all Americans.
Protecting seniors, affordable college tuition, and Hawaii's dependency on foreign fossil fuel opened our interview with Rep. Takai.
"Those are the issues I want to continue to focus on. If you talk about protecting seniors, I think the biggest priority right now is to protect Medicare and their health benefit. When you talk about education, you talk about keeping college education affordable, to some extent that’s a Federal focus as well.
Green is a focus for not only our state but the entire nation. There’s a lot more we can do at the national level to help the state. It’s important for us to wean ourselves off of our dependence to foreign fossil fuel. You may not know this but, we spend 9 billion dollars a year sending out our hard earned money and importing 7 billion in foreign fossil fuel and 2 billion in food. And even if we could just kind of hold on to an additional 2 billion dollars, the amount of economic activity that will be generated will help all of us. It’s imperative that we work together to create a more sustainable Hawaii. What that will do, it will create an opportunity for our kids and generations to come to be able to afford to stay here, and I think that’s definitely a huge priority for all of us."
"I can’t say specifically how I would vote in every single thing. I have a pretty good track record of creating partnerships that work together with people whether they’re Democrats or Republicans. I would like to continue to do that in Washington D.C. Now that means sometimes voting with the Republicans and sometimes voting with the Democrats. But, I think most importantly is that we have to end the gridlock. We all lose when there’s gridlock in Washington. It’s been proven over the past few years especially that partisanship and gridlock in Congress is not healthy for the nation as well as for Hawaii."
Support for the Middle Class?
"We need to provide affordable education opportunities especially for college. That really is the focus of priorities for the middle class. Once college becomes unaffordable we lose opportunities especially for the middle class. The other thing that I mentioned, with a robust economy, everything rises together. The best thing we can do is to assure that our economy moves forward with strength to the economy and we’ll become a little more self-sufficient and keep the money in Hawaii."
How will your military experience will play a role in military issues at home here in Hawaii and on a national and global scale?
"I support a strong military. It’s quite evident I’m part of it. But at the same time, there needs to be some understanding and some partnerships among the local people here in Hawaii and among nations across the world. Hawaii will play a bigger role in the near future as it relates to the military and think it’s important for us to have people in Congress that understands the role of the military. Some people call it the rebalancing to the Pacific has kind of put Hawaii right in the center of the U.S. Military presence. It’s important for us to have representatives in Congress with an understanding of how to continue to support a strong military because a strong military can be a deterrent and add stability, I believe in the region. The reason why I’m announcing now, and I didn’t announce earlier is because I spent the better part of July in Singapore on a military exercise with the Singapore Army. The Hawaii National Guard does a great job reaching out to our partner nations and countries and bringing together people from diverse backgrounds. I think what that does is it stabilizes the region and everybody supports a stable region because a stable region means peace. My strength being part of the military is that I will continue to advocate for a strong military presence in Hawaii. I believe that with a strong military presence comes a responsibility to the local population of the native Hawaiians. That’s something that I want to continue to work on as well."
Do you support the Akaka Bill and Federal Recognition?
"I support the Akaka Bill. I believe that the native Hawaiians need to be federally recognized. We did it at the state level but unfortunately there are additional benefits that come with the Akaka Bill and I’m supporting it."
How do you see Obama care moving forward and truly benefiting Americans?
"With Obama care, I think the verdict is still out. Right now we’re seeing some of the challenges that states are facing as they implement Obama care. For Hawaii, we’ve been fortunate with pre-paid health and much of what’s being discussed on the national level is not affecting us because we’ve had pre-paid health I believe since 1974. None the less we need to closely monitor what’s happening and the impact on our people. The bottom line for the Affordable Care Act is to provide affordable healthcare for people who don’t have healthcare. We need to insure that we’re accomplishing what the Affordable Care Act set out to accomplish without doing damage to our economy."
Are you in support of Same Sex Marriage?
"In terms of Same Sex Marriage, I’ve always voted against Same Sex Marriage. That discussion is really a local discussion that will be addressed by the legislature. I can tell you that with the Defense of Marriage Act or DOMA being overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, the discussion is very strong here in Hawaii to have the legislature take a look at it again. I’m willing to take a look at it. At this point, truthfully, I’m not too sure whether I’m going to change my vote."
"One of the key areas of CD-1 is Aiea and Pearl City and I’ve represented our community for 19 years. What I bring to the table is I think I have a legislative track record that shows that I work hard, and I represent the people. I’m going to work hard over the next year to get that message out to people outside of Aiea, Pearl City. Being involved with the University of Hawaii and the Department of Education and our education issues and with the military, I’ve created a pretty decent track record that transcends our area, our community, and stretches statewide. I’m hoping that what I’ve done over the years will help people eventually support me. We’ve set the foundation to now begin to build our team. At this point I feel we’re starting at a strong base. Over the years we’ve built a pretty loyal support base and we’re going to start from there."
What made you decide to enter the race for Hawaii’s First Congressional District?
"If you take a look at some of the things that I’ve focused in on whether it be military, education, partnerships between the military and the DOE, I helped coordinate an initiative that brought in 36 million federal funding for the Department of Education. Many of those things that I’ve worked on at the state level transcends at a national level. From my perspective, there’s a pretty good transition to move to the next level and to continue the work that I’ve done in the past. I’ve always wanted to represent Hawaii at a higher level. I just think that with the urging of many recently and with the seat opening up because Colleen Hanabusa decided to run for the Senate, it was an opportunity that many people encouraged me to do. It’s just a number of different factors that kind of just came together. Sometimes it’s all about timing and I think the timing is perfect."
"My biggest supporters are my family. Sami is my wife, our two kids, Matthew is 12 and our daughter Kyla is 10. They’re both students at Aiea area public schools. My wife and our two kids have encouraged me and they’re my biggest supporters and cheerleaders. I feel very excited and motivated and I think it’s going to be great. We’re just looking forward to it. You know I’ve been in it for 19 years now, my son is 12, so they’ve always known me in public office and as long as our children are doing well in school and they’re good kids, I’m going to continue to work for our community and in this case our state."
Message you would like send to the voters?
"I’ve been honored to serve Aiea and Pearl City over the past 19 years and I owe a lot to our community. I think I represented our community well and I’ve appreciated the service in the legislature. It’s a very difficult decision to step away from something that you love, but I think I can do what I’ve done for our community at a national level. I hope that the members of our community can continue to support me as we move forward.
I’ll work hard for the next year to talk to the voters about breaking the gridlock in Congress. Breaking the gridlock means that we can accomplish important priorities like protecting Medicare, creating jobs for the middle class, making college more affordable, and insuring that our military remains strong and the best fighting force in the world."
Photo courtesy of Mark Takai
State Representative Mark Takai pictured with his wife Sami, daughter Kaila and son Matthew.