ANCHORAGE - Hollis French vs. Bob Bell has been seen as one of the marquee match-ups in legislative races this fall. Now it's becoming one of the roughest.
The Senate contest in west Anchorage is now turning into a test of character.
Democratic Senator French says Republican challenger Bell has trouble understanding or following rules, even ones he made when he was a member of the Board of Game.
French sent out an email saying Bell is under investigation by state troopers for a musk ox hunt in 2010, and added that Bell doesn't know the definition of a bribe.
The musk ox incident concerns whether Bell improperly took horns out of a game management unit after a subsistence hunt, without having the trophy value destroyed.
"The rules say the horns have to be destroyed,” French said. “That's his obligation to follow the rules, as a member of the Board of Game. He shouldn't be bending the rules or breaking them. He should be following them very scrupulously."
Bell says he later bought carved horns from an artist, whom he says checked with the Department of Fish and Game before mailing them to Anchorage.
The matter was investigated at the time, and resolved, Bell says.
"I will lay at Senator French’s feet the flyer that he put out yesterday saying that I'm under investigation by the state troopers and that I don't know what a bribe is. That is negative," Bell said. "And at the Chamber of Commerce forum, he agreed that he would not do any negative campaigning, and apparently he isn't keeping his word on that."
The bribery issue goes back to Bell's time on the Anchorage Assembly, when he says he rebuffed an offer of financial reward from VECO CEO Bill Allen in exchange for support of a private prison.
Allen later went to prison in the public corruption scandal, in a case involving oil taxes.
"Because I’d received counsel from somebody that knows that sort of thing and said because there was no vote before the assembly, none anticipated or none needed, there was no bribe,” Bell said. “And if I made that kind of accusation, I’d be subject to a libel charge."
French responded: "That's not reporting. That's talking to a lawyer in confidence. Reporting is when you tell the public, tell the police, tell the FBI, tell someone who could act on it."
The candidates disagree on what constitutes negative campaigning.
French says it's just the truth.
Bell says it's neither positive nor true.
Amanda Coyne of the Alaska Dispatch says she stands by her story that Bell is under investigation for the musk ox hunt.
But Megan Peters of the troopers says the agency has never said that and does not identify subjects of investigations.