Election 2012: Democratic Senator Hollis French v. Republican Bob Bell for Senate District J
One of several races that could affect the survival of the bipartisan coalition
ANCHORAGE - The biggest political story in Alaska this fall is the Republican challenge to the Senate's bipartisan coalition and how that could affect the oil tax debate.
Democratic Senator Hollis French has spent six of his 10 years in the Legislature in the coalition, which he says has made for more civility and less extremism at the capitol.
"We sort of made it our collective judgment to leave the more controversial issues aside, work on things that are in the middle of the political spectrum, where most people live."
But former Anchorage Assemblyman Bob Bell, a Republican, wants to take French out and break up the coalition.
"We don't need a coalition to have bipartisan support. What we need is everybody thinking in terms of what's best for the people of Alaska and in my case what's best for the people of West Anchorage."
The coalition refused to pass Governor Parnell’s bill to cut oil taxes by up to $2 billion a year.
French says: "I think we'll go back to Juneau in January and we'll begin to work out an exact mechanism for rewarding new investment in Prudhoe, in Kuparuk, in Alpine, to make sure it's tied to that investment."
Bell agrees that tax breaks should be tied to production increases. "But I disagree with... how he wants to do that. What he wants to do is to dictate to the oil companies – ‘you will do this, and you will do that. Or you don't get this.’ I think we should sit down with the oil companies and say, 'what can we do to make this work?'"
The candidates have political history.
French unsuccessfully opposed Bell's reappointment to the Board of Game a few years ago. The issue was trapping wolverines in Chugach State Park, which Bell voted to expand while cutting back the trapping season.
"Dogs got caught in those traps,” French said. “And it could have been worse."
Bell watched French’s speech against him during a joint session of the Legislature. “And I was appalled. Because almost everything he said was inaccurate."
One thing they agree on: It's a tight race.
The Democratic Party had been making an issue of Bell’s back-and-forth with the Alaska Public Offices Commission on disclosing the client list of his engineering firm and the dollar amounts received from each client.
Today APOC's executive director said that issue has been resolved.
To see the full interview with Hollis French, click here.
To see the full interview with Bob Bell, click here.