Assemb. James Conte (R-Huntington Station) who decided not to seek re-election after nearly a quarter century last summer to concentrate on his battle against cancer, died Tuesday.

Conte, 53, died at about 9:30 a.m. at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City where he had been hospitalized since mid-May, said Toni Tepe, Huntington Republican chairwoman.

"It is a great loss for his district," said Tepe, who had preceded Conte in the Assembly. He was totally there for his constituency. He was a great friend, husband, father and family man.

"It is sad that some one would be cut so much before his time," said Frank MacKay, state and Suffolk Independence Party chairman.

Conte had represented the 10th district, which includes parts of both Nassau and Suffolk, since March, 1988, when he first won a special election to replace Tepe after she had been elected as Huntington Town supervisor.

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He served for many years as ranking minority member of the education committee and in 2005 he was promoted to assistant minority leader pro tempore, where he led floor debates for the minority. In the most recent Albany session, he served on the health, labor and higher education committees.

Conte has suffered for years with kidney problems but last spring was diagnosed with T-cell luymphomia. He declined his nomination in July after petitions had already been filed. At the time, At the time, Conte said the decision was "very hard for me," but I "realized that in order to fully recover, I must devote my full energies to regaining my strength and beating this disease."

Before his election to the Assembly, Conte had served as an aide to several state lawmakers including Tepe and had also served an intergovernmental analyst in the Suffolk County executive's office.