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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Eye On Olympia

State Rep. Steve Hailey dead at 63

Rep. Steve Hailey, R-Mesa, died Sunday, about a year after he was diagnosed with colon cancer. He would have turned 64 next month.

A farmer and rancher from the Franklin County town of Mesa, Hailey was elected on his second try in 2006, narrowly beating fellow Republican Joe Schmick in the Republican primary. (Schmick, R-Colfax was subsequently appointed to fill a vacant legislative seat, and both men recently won re-election.)

Hailey represented the 9th district, a sprawling triangle that encompasses the Palouse and much of southeastern Washington. The former Vietnam War helicopter pilot made public the cancer diagnosis last January, then went back to his ranch to try to keep working on legislative tasks in between chemotherapy doses.

"This is one of the toughest challenges of my life, but I feel strongly that I have an obligation to be candid about what I'm dealing with and what's ahead," Hailey said at the time. He vowed to battle through the disease.

Last spring, he sounded upbeat and energetic, optimistic that the chemotherapy had worked. He was working on the ranch again. He ran for re-election, winning easily. Then, a few weeks after the election, Hailey announced that he'd be resigning Jan. 11th, a day before the legislative session starts. He no longer had the strength, he said at the time, to keep up with a state lawmaker's workload.

"When Steve announced his resignation earlier this month, we knew it was time for him to focus on his family and his battle against cancer," said House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt.

Funeral services are slated for 2 p.m. Saturday in Connell, at the Connell Community Center. Republican party officials from the district's half-dozen counties will nominate appointees for the seat, with the county commissioners making the final decision.

In lieu of flowers, people can make contributions in Hailey's name to the Tri-Cities Cancer Center Foundation, the American Cancer Society, and the Washington Cattlemen's Association Endowmen Trust Fund.

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