Malone without peer in understanding grassroots

Letter to the editor

Posted: Sunday, March 11, 2001

The Malones lived down the street from us in Kenai and our daughter, Mary, babysat for Hugh and Chris. We served together on the Kenai City Council and the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly. His father, Frank, a surveyor, was a first-generation American from Northern Ireland, and his mother, Kate, worked for the court system and was from a politically active Irish-American family in Philadelphia. My wife, Karen, and Kate served the Republican and Democratic parties, watching closely the Kenai election boards. The Malone survey office was just upstairs from the Fisher and Hornaday law office and we heard Frank's lectures on why the British should leave Ireland many times. Hugh and Mark Hodgins were in the first business law class I taught in the Kenai Peninsula Community College way back in 1966.

Hugh progressed from local government to serving as Speaker of the Alaska House of Representatives. He was a leader of the ad hoc Democrat "Sunshine Boys" who took control of the party from the old-time Democrats in the 1970s.

He was active in state and local issues (Kenai courthouse, roads, airports, water and sewer projects).

He was a leader in the creation of the Alaska Permanent Fund and the resulting dividend program, and later served as commissioner of Revenue and on the Permanent Fund Board.

His understanding of grassroots politics was without peer - one campaign he told me he was urging his supporters to "toughen up his support in the Fritz Creek precinct" east of Homer.

Although he remained an avid Democrat, he worked well with other legislators, regardless of party. Years later, while serving as an unpaid lobbyist for the Cancer Society in Juneau for an increase in the tobacco tax, I ran into Hugh the first day and he laid out exactly what the current situation was on the bill and what was going to happen - and it did. My last contact with Hugh, he was selling tickets for his daughter's Juneau-Douglas Little Theatre production.

Good travels, Hugh, and may you be in heaven a half-hour before the devil knows you're gone.

James C. Hornaday


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