Dunleavy recall effort begins with statewide signature collection
Efforts to recall Gov. Mike Dunleavy have officially begun.
Organizers began collecting signatures Thursday morning in Juneau, Ketchikan and Nome, and continued throughout the day in larger cities such as Anchorage, Wasilla and Fairbanks.
Recall supporters said they’re worried about Dunleavy’s deep budget cuts statewide sending the state into an economic abyss, from which it would take years to recover.
Dunleavy supporters call the endeavor a waste of time and resources, adding the governor's only been in office for eight months, not nearly enough time for his initiatives to take hold.
This campaign is hardly partisan.
It’s backed by co-chairs Vic Fisher, who helped write the Alaska Constitution as a member of the Constitutional Convention; Former Republican Sen. Arliss Sturgulewski; and Joe Usibelli Sr., board chairman for Usibelli Coal Mine Inc, who said he voted for Dunleavy.
Richard Wien, whose mother Ada was among Alaska’s Constitutional Convention delegates, said he is experiencing voter’s remorse for having voted for Dunleavy. He said words can't describe his disappointment.
“I’ve been through WWII, the booms and busts in Fairbanks, the pipeline and what all that meant to Fairbanks, and I’ve never been so alarmed for the future of Alaska as I have with this governor,” Wien said.
The 84-year-old from Fairbanks said even now a successful campaign may be too late because “the damage is already done” with the budget cuts that Dunleavy says he supports even after the Legislature’s efforts to restore more than $300 million of the $444 million in cuts.
The signature collection began early in Juneau with a table set outside the downtown gift shop Planet Alaska Gallery. By 1 p.m., supporters had collected more than 300 signatures.
Store owner Vivian Mork says, a Tlingit woman who grew up in Wrangell, says she’s met recall supporters from various political leanings.
“I really wish this isn’t where we were at,” she said. “I have family who votes every single which way. We’ve been having all sorts of long, complicated conversations. I think that’s one of the things that’s lovely about Alaskans is that so many diverse people sit next to each other.”
Even as some Dunleavy voters have regrets, his staunchest supporters remain vocal in backing the first-term governor.
They praise him for being unafraid to make difficult decisions they believe will help Alaska’s long-term future.
Ann Brown, vice chair for the Alaska Republican Party, called the recall effort unfair, adding the governor should be afforded time to advance his priorities and work with the Legislature.
“We think this is a waste of time and money,” Brown said. “The governor has been in office eight months. He’s trying hard to negotiate with the Legislature over his budget and the Permanent Fund [dividend]. We think he should be allowed to continue that, let that play out and finish the session.”
Lyle Downing, of Wasilla, said he doesn’t believe the recall with have enough momentum that eventually goes to the voters.
Downing serves as District 11 chair for the Alaska Republican Party, which includes Rep. DeLena Johnson and Sen. Shelley Hughes.
“If I went through all of his vetoes line-by-line, there’s probably some of those in there that I wouldn’t agree with,” he said. “To me, it seems like he’s the only one that's really making the real tough decisions and sticking his neck out.”
Some small business owners are also steadfast in supporting Dunleavy.
"He's just doing exactly what he said he was gonna do," Dalton Stokes said. "He’s being real quiet about it and they can’t stand it. The low hanging fruit out here can’t stand it. You know, you look at the people who hate him they're the people who don’t produce nothing."
As far as Dunleavy's cuts go, Stokes says they're the way to go. He also said it's not too early to judge the governor's decisions.
Penned against Dunleavy
In Alaska's largest city, signers came to Cuddy Family Midtown Park in droves Thursday evening.
"We can all work together to recall Dunleavy," Vic Fisher told the crowd.
Lines formed in front of volunteers holding signature forms as various speakers and musical acts took the stage.
"Power to the people, take the power back," Alaskans chanted.
Dawn Bundick said she was standing in line to sign because of how the cuts to services are already affecting her family members.
"This governor, he ran on, he wanted to do for the people. He's not doing for the people," she said. "We the people voted for him to help with our state for the people and as you can see, a lot of the people are saying, 'No, you're not here to help our state, you're not here for us.'"
Organizers believe they collected thousands of signatures during the three-hour window.
A Daunting Endeavor
The campaign faces several election law hurdles that must be cleared before any recall election can occur.
It must first collect 28,501 registered voter signatures for the Division of Elections for a successful petition application.
Put in perspective, the recall sheets have room for 15 signatures each, so it would need to fill at least 1,900 sheets.
Once those signatures get certified for a petition, the recall campaign must then collect 71,252 signatures, reflecting 25% of the 2018 voter turnout.
The division of elections director reviews applications, then either certifies petitions or notifies the recall committee on the grounds for refusal. If the elections office deems the second step legal, an election would be called within 60 to 90 days.
Unlike initiative petitions and referendums, which fall under Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer, there are no requirements calling for a minimum of signatures to come from various House districts.
Still, passionate opposition isn’t enough for a successful application.
According to election laws, petitioners must meet one of the following legal grounds: lack of fitness; incompetence; neglecting duties; corruption.
The campaign drafted a 200-word grounds for recall statement, citing neglect of duties, incompetence and lack of fitness — but not corruption.
Those grounds the campaign alleges are Dunleavy:
- Violated Alaska law when he originally refused to appoint a judge to the Palmer Superior Court within 45 days of receiving nominations;
- Violated state law and the constitution and misused state funds by unlawfully and without proper disclosure, authorizing and allowing the use of state funds for partisan purposes;
- Ignored separation of power by using line-item veto to attack the judiciary and preclude the legislature from upholding its constitutional health, education and welfare responsibilities;
- Acted incompetently by mistakenly vetoing $18 million more than he told the legislature in official communication. Uncorrected, the state could lose $40 million in federal Medicaid funds.
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