Donley, French fight centers on military record

Posted: Friday, November 01, 2002

(ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The high-stakes race between incumbent Anchorage Republican Sen. Dave Donley and Democratic challenger Hollis French has turned into a nasty fight in its final days.

Most of the fight has centered on French's military service. The Republican Party of Alaska ran a three-quarter-page newspaper advertisement Thursday saying that ''The United States Marine Corps says Hollis French was never a Marine. Period.''

But military officials earlier this week sent out a letter saying the Department of the Navy document featured in the Republican advertisement has been revoked.

''After further research we have verified that there was a H.S. French in the Marine Corps Reserve,'' George Michalick of the Navy records division wrote. In an interview, Michalick described it as a letter of retraction.

French has an honorable discharge from the U.S. Marine Corps dated April 20, 1978.

Republican Party Chairman Randy Ruedrich and Donley, who repeatedly raised the Marine Corps issue in a televised debate with French on Wednesday night, said they did not find out about the letter of retraction until contacted by reporters Thursday.

Ruedrich also noted that the retracted Navy document specifically said French was never on active duty. He said the party stands by its assertions that French spoke of a training course as being active duty in a radio interview and that French was never actually in a Marine Corps ROTC program.

French listed ''USMC (ROTC), 1977-1978, Private'' as his military service in the state election pamphlet.

Military records show French was in the Marine Corps Reserve Platoon Leaders Class Program, a different training program for college students who aspire to be military officers.

French said that when he filled out the election pamphlet question 25 years later, he remembered it as ROTC, which in his mind stood for all college military training courses. French said that because he has an honorable discharge, he felt it would be incorrect to just say he had no military service. French said he included the phrase ROTC in his answer so everyone would know his service was minor.

Donley, who did not list any military service in the election pamphlet, said that French has essentially claimed a six-week summer training course as being military service. That's misleading, he said.

The Donley-French race is being watched closely statewide because Donley is one of the most powerful members of the Republican-controlled Legislature, His defeat would represent a significant change in the state Senate.

Voters in the Spenard, Turnagain and Inlet View neighborhoods of Anchorage will decide the winner Tuesday.

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