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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, January 1, 2010

Former Sen. Nadao Yoshinaga dead at 90

By Derrick DePledge
Advertiser Government Writer

Nadao “Najo” Yoshinaga, a veteran of the famed 100th Battalion/442 Regimental Combat Team in World War II and who helped Democrats capture the Territorial Legislature and shaped the party’s approach to social welfare, died Tuesday. He was 90.

Yoshinaga, an attorney from Wailuku, Maui, was elected to the Territorial House in the Democratic takeover of 1954, when the party broke the Republican hold on Island politics. He moved to the Territorial Senate in 1958 and was an influential leader on issues such as labor, health care, technology and the arts until he retired from the state Senate in 1974.
He was an advocate for a higher minimum wage, unemployment compensation and worker rights. He pressed for a study on universal, employer-based health care that helped lay the groundwork for the state’s landmark Prepaid Health Care Act of 1974. The law requires businesses to provide health insurance to employees who work 20 hours a week.
Yoshinaga, an often volatile, bare-knuckled insider, was also considered a visionary. He supported funding for research into marine biology, geophysics and observatories, while also backing the creation of the State Foundation for Culture and the Arts.
He proposed bills on population control and limiting the number of automobiles to force a conversation on growth, years before the term “sustainability” became popular at the state Capitol.
After he left office, he was a mentor to many young Democrats, challenging them to push harder on issues such as food and energy independence.
“He was a mentor to a whole community of folks who surrounded him,” said former state lawmaker Jim Shon, who was among friends who wrote a tribute to Yoshinaga in The Advertiser last summer.
“I think he really inspired a lot of people to not just coast.”