MESA -- Some big shoes were left empty Sunday morning when Rep. Steve Hailey, a Mesa Republican, died after a battle with colon cancer.
"He was a huge advocate for the people of the 9th District," said Rep. Joe Schmick, R-Colfax. "There's going to be some big shoes to fill here."
Hailey, 63, was diagnosed with colon cancer about a year ago and had been receiving chemotherapy since then.
He planned to resign his 9th District legislative seat Jan. 11, which he announced earlier this month in a letter to Gov. Chris Gregoire.
"My health is such that I cannot represent the interests of my constituents in the fashion they deserve," Hailey wrote in the letter.
He had continued his legislative work mostly by phone, conference calls and e-mail.
Lisa Fenton, communications director for the House Republican Caucus, said Hailey died about 5 a.m., though she didn't know where.
Legislative officials and staff were notified, she said, and more information about his memorial service will be released soon.
Hailey is a former Army helicopter pilot and a third-generation rancher. He was elected to his first term in 2006.
A former president of the Washington Cattlemen's Association, Hailey also was a member of the Franklin County Cattlemen's Association, the Washington Wheat Growers Association and other agricultural groups, according to his website.
He was involved with the Franklin County Planning Commission and the county's Fire District 1, his website says.
Hailey and his wife Pat have two children and a grandchild, according to the website.
"He was extremely well liked in our caucus. He was very helpful to me ... showing me the ropes," said Schmick, who was appointed to the legislature in November 2007 and won re-election this year. "He was fun to work with. He had a great sense of humor. He was my friend and I'm sorely going to miss him."
Three nominees to succeed Hailey will be picked by the district's Republican precinct committee officers. County commissioners then will choose the finalist.