Hawaii Island Rep. Clift Tsuji dies

Rep. Clift Tsuji (KHON2 File)
Rep. Clift Tsuji (KHON2 File)


UPDATE: Ceremonies have been announced in honor of the late representative. View the full story here.

State Rep. Clift Tsuji has died.

The 75-year-old passed away at Queen’s Medical Center on Oahu Tuesday, according to the Hawaii House of Representatives.

Tsuji represented House District 2 including Keaukaha, parts of Hilo, Panaewa, and Waiakea.

Tsuji was born on Jan. 20, 1941 and raised in the Big Island’s plantation town of Papaikou. He is a 1959 graduate of Hilo High School and completed his post-secondary degrees at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and the University of Washington, Pacific Coast Banking School.

Tsuji was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2004 and was chairman of the Agriculture Committee. Among his many awards, he was named the Hawaii Farm Bureau’s Legislator of the Year Award in 2015.

Tsuji served in the U.S. Army Reserve, 442nd Infantry, Company B, Hilo, from 1959-1965.

He was also active with the Hilo Medical Center Foundation, Hawaii Island Japanese Community Association, Pacific Tsunami Museum, Hiroshima Kenjin Kai, Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce, and the Kumamoto Kenjin Kai.

Who will serve in his stead?

The governor will make an appoint within 60 calendar days of the first day of the vacancy (Nov. 15). The selection will be made from a list of three prospective appointees submitted by the Democratic Party of Hawaii.

Hawaii Revised Statute §17-4 State representatives.

(a) Whenever any vacancy in the membership of the state house of representatives occurs, the governor shall make an appointment within sixty calendar days following the first day of vacancy to fill the vacancy for the unexpired term by selecting a person from a list of three prospective appointees submitted by the same political party as the prior incumbent. The appointee shall be, at the time of appointment, and shall have been, for at least six months immediately prior to the appointment, a member of the political party. The appointee shall, at the time of appointment, be a resident of the same state representative district as the prior incumbent. The political party shall submit the list of prospective appointees to the governor within thirty calendar days following the first day of vacancy.


House Speaker Joe Souki:

“We are deeply saddened by the sudden passing of Rep. Tsuji. Clift who was a great public servant and a close personal friend. He loved his family, Hawaii and the communities he represented. He will be greatly missed. Our condolences and aloha go out to his friends and family from everyone at the legislature.”


Senate President Ronald Kouchi:

“I am deeply saddened by the passing of our friend and colleague Rep. Clift Tsuji. He will be remembered for his hard work supporting Hawaii’s agriculture, his commitment to the residents of his district, and his warm and ready smile. On behalf of the Hawaii State Senate, our deepest condolences to the Tsuji family.”


Hawaii Island Mayor Billy Kenoi:

“Representative Clift Tsuji was an honorable statesman with a sincere passion for service. He brought his best to his leadership role, earning the respect of his colleagues in the House of Representatives and in the community he represented. He was a consummate gentleman and a role model for the next generation of public servants. We thank him for his service in the defense of our nation, and for his service to our community. Our condolences and aloha go out to his family. He will be sorely missed by the Hawaii Island community.”


Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell:

“Clift Tsuji was a friend. He was a decent, gentle man who cared so much about his community. He had much more to give and his passing is a tragic event for all of Hawaii. My thoughts are with his children Ashley and Ryan Kalei and his entire ohana.”


Gov. David Ige:

Representative Clift Tsuji was a quiet man with a big heart who had the courage to stand for his convictions. He was a passionate leader and a vigorous advocate for the Hilo community. His legacy of service will be remembered by his constituents and all Hawaii Island residents. He was a personal friend, and I am going to miss his presence at the State Capitol. Dawn and I send our condolences to his sons, Ryan and Ashley.


Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui:

“My deepest condolences go out to the ohana of Representative Clift Tsuji during this very difficult time. Clift leaves behind a legacy as a strong voice for the people and a staunch advocate for Hawaii’s agriculture community. I will always remember Clift’s booming voice coupled with his friendly and approachable nature. Those who were fortunate to have known him will also remember his kindness and the aloha he shared with the countless people he touched. He will be missed.”


U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz:

“My deepest condolences to the family and many friends of Representative Clift Tsuji. Rep. Tsuji was low-key in style but a firm fighter for the needs of the people of the Big Island. He will be especially remembered for his advocacy of agriculture and its essential role in the economy and culture of Hawai‘i. Clift was earnest, hard-working, and always had a kind word for people. He will be greatly missed.”

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