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Richard E. 'Dick' Hug, Republican fundraiser and civic leader, dies at 78

ElectionsColleges and UniversitiesEnvironmental PollutionExecutive Branch

Richard E. "Dick" Hug, a prominent businessman and prolific fundraiser for Republican candidates, died Saturday. He was 78.

Mr. Hug was the finance chairman for three Maryland gubernatorial campaigns — Ellen R. Sauerbrey in 1998 and Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. in 2002 and 2006 — becoming known as the $6 million man after he raised that amount for Mrs. Sauerbrey's unsuccessful attempt to unseat Gov. Parris N. Glendening.

He belonged to numerous civic boards and associations, including the University System of Maryland Board of Regents, and he served a stint as chairman of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce.

Born in Paterson, N.J., Mr. Hug earned his degree in forestry at Duke University before serving as the founder and CEO of Environmental Elements Corp., an air pollution reduction company, for 22 years.

Those who knew Mr. Hug described him as affable, with a great sense of humor and the skill to coax money out of recalcitrant donors.

"He had a lot of guts, a lot of grit, a great determination to make a difference in the state of Maryland and in the country," Mrs. Sauerbrey said.

Mr. Hug chalked up his fundraising success to making personal connections and persistence.

"We're not bashful," he told The Baltimore Sun in 1997. "You send out three or four letters, or call people three or four times, and pretty soon they say, 'If you're going to ask me again for money, Hug, I'm going to send you a check just to get you out of my hair.'"

Mr. Hug raised more than $10 million for Mr. Ehrlich in 2002, a record for a Maryland gubernatorial campaign, then exceeded that for the 2006 election.

In 2006, Mr. Hug resigned from the University System of Maryland Board of Regents after the General Assembly passed a law tightening restrictions on political activities by those members.

David Nevins, who served with Mr. Hug on the Board of Regents, said he was a compassionate person who could often find points of agreement with those he disagreed with politically.

"I really am of the mind that if there were more Dick Hugs, there would be more compromise," Mr. Nevins said.

Mr. Nevins said Mr. Hug was a great supporter of the university system, though he would joke that he was a Duke Blue Devils fan two days out of the year — when the team played the University of Maryland in basketball.

"We didn't always agree about politics," Mr. Nevins said. "But he was just someone whose positions were based on the highest integrity and sense of ethics and right and wrong."

Mr. Hug began his business career with Koppers Co., a chemical and materials firm based in Pittsburgh, and rose to become a vice president there in 1973.

He ran statewide fundraising efforts for George W. Bush's 2000 and 2004 presidential campaigns, becoming a "Super Ranger" — someone who had raised at least $500,000.

Mr. Hug didn't raise money only for political campaigns — for former Gov. William Donald Schaefer, he raised $6 million to bring the international Special Olympics to the state.

Many people marveled at Mr. Hug's fundraising abilities.

"It's amazing," Mr. Ehrlich said in 2002, after Mr. Hug helped outraise his rival, Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. "Some people like to play golf or like business, but Dick likes to shake people down."

Mr. Hug also trained numerous political operatives in fundraising.

"It is obviously a sad day for Maryland and Maryland Republicans," said Audrey Scott, former Maryland Republican Party chairwoman, who said Mr. Hug was a tremendous supporter when she served in that role. "He financially opened doors and helped me keep the party viable, and that's really important. That's the main responsibility of the state party chair. I found him to be invaluable. But I also found him to be a confidant and a friend. … He was always willing to listen. [He was] a real help to me in many, many ways."

She added, "Dick Hug will be missed. We will feel that loss in a very real way. He will not be easily replaced."

Mrs. Sauerbrey described Mr. Hug as "not politically correct" and someone who would embrace sometimes-unpopular causes he believed in, including his desire to raise tuition at University System of Maryland institutions.

"He constantly lived what he believed in," she said.

Services will be private, according to the Barranco and Sons funeral home in Severna Park, which is handling arrangements.

Mr. Hug is survived by his wife of 56 years, Lois; a son, Donald R. Hug; a daughter, Cynthia H. Marino; four grandchildren; and a sister, the funeral home said.

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