HONOLULU – Illinois Democratic Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth has returned to her hometown of Hawaii to endorse Lt. Col. Mark Takai, a Hawaii state representative and member of the Hawaii Army National Guard, in his bid for Congressional District 1. She, along with a newly formed alliance of veterans calling themselves “Veterans for Takai”, plan to help the veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom raise funds for what’s turning out to be a competitive race in the Democratic primary.
“I’m standing with Mark Takai today because he offers two things this Congress is lacking – courage and the ability to get things done,” said Duckworth, the commander of a Black Hawk Helicopter unit in Iraq in 2004 when the helicopter she was piloting was hit by an insurgent’s rocket propelled grenade. The attack left without her legs, and only partial use of her right arm, but she helped her co-pilot land the aircraft saving the lives of her crew, and as a result, was awarded combat medals and the Purple Heart. She later served as Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs under President Barack Obama, before being elected to Congress in 2012
Takai and Duckworth have known each other for years, since both attended and then graduated from the University of Hawaii, where they served together as student leaders.
Elected to the state House of Representatives 19 years ago, Takai prides himself on being a champion for veterans, establishing the Veterans Court to connect veterans in need with the social services and medical care as well as programs that combat veteran homelessness. Takai also founded the annual Hawaii Medal of Honor ceremony, which honors those service members with ties to Hawaii who have died in combat.
“Mark has served with me in uniform in the Middle East and in his two decades in the Hawaii State House he’s stood up for our fellow vets, authored the state’s College Savings Program, and led initiatives to protect retirement security and to create a new clean energy economy,” Duckworth said.
Takai said he was “proud and honored” to be endorsed by Duckworth, “a true American hero.”
“I can’t wait to stand side-by-side with Tammy Duckworth in Congress to protect our fellow vets, and work together on the things we both care passionately about like making college more affordable, creating new clean energy jobs and ensuring our seniors are not asked to pay more because the wealthiest Americans are not paying their fair share,” Takai said.
Takai will be taking on a number of fellow Democrats in this current congressional race including Senate President Donna Mercado Kim, Senator Will Espero, Council Members Ikaika Anderson, Stanley Chang and community activist Kathryn Xian. No Republicans have entered the race at this time.
Duckworth also used the media platform during the endorsement to discuss her new legislation she calls the “Support Earned Recognition for Veterans” Act (SERVe Act), which she said cracks down on those who game the system to receive veterans disability benefits and contract set-asides they have not legitimately earned.
Duckworth introduced the legislation after a dramatic hearing last June in which she chastised an IRS contractor for faking a service-connected injury to gain special contracting status as a disabled vet.
During the 2012 election, Duckworth also backed then Honolulu City Council Member Tulsi Gabbard for Hawaii’s second congressional district, and Gabbard ultimately won that election.