CONCORD, N.H. (AP) – New Hampshire House Minority Leader Michael Whalley has died at age 54.

Whalley, R-Alton, who had been fighting a cancerous brain tumor, died Saturday of complications from a recent fall, his family said.

He was serving his eighth term in the House, and had served as deputy speaker under former Speaker Gene Chandler. He had been campaigning for speaker in 2006 when political winds shifted and Democrats won majorities in the House and Senate.

“The job description just changed,” Whalley noted of his new role in the minority. “We’re not going to win many battles, if any, but we still have a responsibility to point out our differences and stand on our principles.”

Republican Party Chairman Fergus Cullen said few others would have met that challenge as well as Whalley.

“Mike Whalley’s word was to be trusted. He had the leadership skills to keep a diverse caucus working together,” Cullen said. “He always put the interests of the state of New Hampshire first and political considerations second, including his own hope to become speaker one day.”

Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley, who worked with Whalley for many years as a fellow House member, praised Whalley’s dedication to his party and committment to the state.

“His courage throughout his health struggle this past year was remarkable,” he said.

Whalley, a graduate of Bishop Brady High School in Concord and the University of New Hampshire, was a co-owner of snowmobile and motorcycle shops in Hooksett, Tilton and Laconia.

“Mike was one of those truly unique New Hampshire public servants. Whether it was working with his brothers running a successful family business, or enjoying his family and friends on a beautiful summers day on Lake Winnipesaukee, Mike always found time to give back to his community and state with his loyal and dedicated service as a member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives,” said U.S. Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H.

U.S. Sen. John Sununu, R-N.H., said he will miss Whalley’s friendship and thoughtful voice.

“Mike served New Hampshire in the finest traditions of our state – he was a citizen legislator, a leader of great integrity, and always kept a genuine sense of humility and humor,” he said. “The courage and grace which marked his battle with cancer inspires us all the more to keep his memory alive as we serve the public.”

Whalley is survived by his wife and two children.

AP-ES-03-02-08 1552EST

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