HONOLULU – Rep. Patsy Mink's name will remain on the November ballot as the Democratic nominee for her House seat, despite the longtime lawmaker's death following a battle with viral pneumonia.
Mink was a fierce liberal who co-authored landmark gender equity legislation and had been expected to easily defeat her GOP opponent in the November general election. She was 74.
Her death on Saturday came two days after the deadline for taking her name off the Nov. 5 ballot, and a week after she beat a little-known perennial candidate in the primary.
If she is re-elected posthumously, the seat will be declared vacant and a special election will be held to choose a successor.
The Hawaii Democrat died at Straub Clinic and Hospital, where she had been treated since Aug. 30 for viral pneumonia stemming from chickenpox, said her spokesman, Andy Winer. The disease is usually mild when it occurs in children but can lead to serious infections.
Mink had been a member of the House for 24 years over two different stretches. She won re-election two years ago by a nearly two-to-one margin, and had been considered a sure winner in this year's race against Republican state Rep. Bob McDermott.
"Hers was a spirit like no other," Gov. Ben Cayetano said in a statement. "Through several generations, she served as a powerful force which shaped not only Hawaii, but our nation."
She was one of Hawaii's most liberal politicians, often working outside the mainstream of the Democratic Party. Her political career predated Hawaii's statehood in 1959.
"Patsy Mink fought tirelessly all her life for social and economic justice," said Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii. "She championed America's most deeply held values -- equality, fairness and honesty."
Mink was an early opponent of the Vietnam War and accompanied fellow Rep. Bella Abzug, D-N.Y., to Paris to talk to participants in the Vietnam War peace talks.
She opposed the death penalty and had as her spending priorities education, housing and health care. Mink's strong liberal stands led conservative opponents to dub her "Patsy Pink."
"She was very strong on the environment. She was for equal opportunity for all people ... She was willing to stand up and be counted," former Democratic Gov. George Ariyoshi said.
Mink believed one of her most significant accomplishments in Congress was Title IX of the Education Act, which she helped author in 1972. The law, credited by many with changing the face of women's sports and societal attitudes about women, bans gender discrimination in schools that receive federal funding.
"To be frank," Mink said in 1997, the 25th anniversary of Title IX, "I though this was great, a beginning statement of policy and intent. At the moment we were doing it, we didn't think it would have this fantastic momentum and the enforcement of the courts."
After serving in the territorial and state legislatures, Mink was initially elected to Congress in 1964. She remained in the House until 1976, when she lost to fellow Rep. Spark Matsunaga in the Democratic primary for the Senate.
Matsunaga went on to win the election, but his death in 1990 led to Mink's return to Congress. She won a special election to fill out the term of Rep. Daniel Akaka, who was named to succeed Matsunaga in the Senate.
She was re-elected that year and in 1992, 1994, 1996, 1998 and 2000.
After losing her Senate bid, Mink remained in Washington for two years as an assistant secretary of state in the Carter administration.
She returned to elective politics in 1982, winning a four-year term on the Honolulu City Council. She gave up the seat after one term and made an unsuccessful run for governor.
Born Dec. 6, 1927, in Paia, Maui, Mink graduated from the University of Hawaii in 1948 before earning her law degree from the University of Chicago in 1951.
Mink became part of a movement, mostly composed of second-generation Japanese-Americans -- many of them decorated World War II veterans -- that enabled Democrats to wrest control of Hawaii politics from Republicans.
The GOP's decades-old grip was broken in 1954 when Democrats took control of the territorial Legislature. Mink was elected to the territorial House two years later, and won a seat in the state Senate in 1959.
Her survivors include her husband, John, and daughter, Wendy.