Rep. Bill Hudson, the Juneau Republican who founded the bipartisan Fiscal Policy Caucus, announced on the House floor today that he will not seek re-election to an eighth term.
Hudson, who earlier had indicated he would run again for the seat that includes the Mendenhall Valley, hinted that this session's futile push for a long-range fiscal plan might have taken a toll.
In an interview, Hudson acknowledged that retirement wasn't at the forefront of his mind on May 2, when the House voted for $930 million in new revenue toward closing a $1 billion fiscal gap projected for 2004. But most of that legislation has since bogged down in the considerably more conservative Senate and was expected to die with tonight's midnight adjournment of the regular legislative session.
"For me, this has all been about public service," Hudson told his House colleagues. "All of us at some point in time will reach this point, where you have to make the decision as to whether or not you want to continue on or you want to step aside and let somebody younger and somebody newer take a shot at it and build their particular brand of leadership and bring their particular skills and experiences to this body.
"Mr. Speaker, this is a wonderful state. Democracy is a wonderful thing to live under. I have some grandkids that haven't seen enough of me," Hudson said, in a voice that was sometimes unsteady. "I'm particularly pleased that we have shown the light on how men and women from different parties can work together on issues that are extremely important to the people of Alaska. ...
"We stood up, we put our name on tough issues, and we voted our conscience, not for our party, but for the public for the people we serve."
Hudson, who will be 70 this year, was born in Arizona, grew up in Idaho and served 21 years in the U.S. Coast Guard. He came to Juneau in the mid-1970s for Gov. Jay Hammond, who he served as commissioner of administration and director of the Alaska Marine Highway System. He also is former executive director of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.
Hudson was first elected to the House in 1986, and except for a two-year break in the mid-1990s, he has been there since.
In the Legislature, Hudson has walked a fine line, staying loyal to his party at critical moments but other times voting with minority Democrats. He has fought efforts to move the capital or the Legislature, but also has pushed for new revenue measures that are particularly controversial in the pro-move hotbed of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.
"Bill has been a great friend for the past decade," said House Finance Co-Chairman Eldon Mulder, an Anchorage Republican who has had Hudson on his committee. As a member of the majority, "He has certainly protected Juneau from attempts at times to lash out at this community," Mulder said.
In his office, Hudson looked at several notes that colleagues handed him on the House floor after his announcement. One of them said: "You've been the north on all of our compasses this year."
"I'm really sorry to see him go because he's a very honorable man, and a very intelligent man, and I think he's one of the best people in the Legislature," said Rep. Harry Crawford, an Anchorage Democrat.
"He's just a wonderful person," said Rep. Beth Kerttula, a Juneau Democrat. "He's been very kind to me, and he just keeps a level of civility and thoughtfulness that is just so rare. It's really going to be hard. ... I'm going to miss him a lot."
Hudson apparently has been popular with constituents, too, as he was unopposed for re-election in 2000 despite offering bills to reinstate an income tax and use permanent fund earnings for government operations. However, one Democrat who says he's about to declare his candidacy for the seat said he would have run against Hudson.
Hudson said defending Juneau's status as the capital has complicated his job.
"You literally have to tie one arm behind your back," he said. "That's the arm that you trade off to keep the capital and the Legislature in Juneau. ... This is a bigger industry than tourism. ... The people of Juneau are going to have to realize this capital isn't going to stay here without our continuing effort."
Hudson said he and his wife, Lucy, will travel more to see their grandchildren, who are spread throughout Alaska and the country. But he said he would remain active on keeping the capital in Juneau and pushing for a long-range fiscal plan.
Bill McAllister can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.