As a hotly contested national election season wraps up with Wednesday’s inauguration, some Alaskans are returning their gaze to an issue closer to home — the recall of Gov. Mike Dunleavy.
“What we’re doing now is we’re trying to ramp back up and reengage with this effort,” said Pat Race, volunteer with the Recall Dunleavy campaign, during a news conference Tuesday. “I think the pandemic and the election cycle really mindwiped a bunch of us, and it’s time to remember why we’re doing this.”
The recall petition currently has 49,520 out of the 71,252 signatures required, according to the campaign’s website. A special election will be triggered if the movement reaches the required number of of signatures, which the group has stated it wants to do by mid-March.
“No group’s ever gathered 70,000 signatures, so that’s a significant hurdle,” said Scott Kendall, a lawyer with the group, during the news conference. “There’s no deadline passed and there’s no remaining legal barrier to the recall.”
The group is focusing on gaining the required 20,000 signatures now, sending out booklets by request that can be signed and certified by as many as 15 people. There’s also a list on their website of locations where residents wishing to take part in the exercise can sign.
“If we don’t hold him accountable, no one will,” Race said. “I think it’s very important that we hold Governor Dunleavy accountable through this process.”
The group put its efforts largely on hold as the pandemic made gathering the required signatures potentially unsafe, said Vince Beltrami, a member of the steering committee.
“One of the questions we get is ‘why are you still doing this? Is this still going on?’ And the answer is yes,” Beltrami said during the conference. “It’s time to get back onto this horse and keep the pressure on the governor. Some of his plans put us on a path towards fiscal destruction with no plan to get out of it.”
Reasons listed on the website for the recall effort range from constitutional violations, to high-profile misconduct among officials, to attacks on funding for education and the Alaska Marine Highway System.
“Every day he’s in office is a day too long as far as we’re concerned. It’s been150 days roughly since it was reported that his AG had engaged in serious sexual harassment and his office did nothing about it,” said chair Meda DeWitt during the conference. “They don’t deserve to be in office if they’re not going to address allegations like this. Two years is too long.”
Former Attorney General Kevin Clarkson resigned in August following reports of repeated text messages sent to a state employee.
The signatures, once verified, would trigger the election. Multiple efforts to block recall efforts were defeated in court, DeWitt said.
“Dunleavy is the antithesis of a good leader. He has broken the law. He has misrepresented himself. He has destroyed the university system. He’s going after the ferry system. As a lifelong Alaskan, he doesn’t represent me,” said Erin Jackson-Hill, the group’s statewide coordinate, during the conference. “2021 is when we set our state right. We take it back and do what we need to do so everyone has opportunity and everyone can thrive.”
The office of the governor said by email that Dunleavy’s record should be proof enough against a recall effort.
“The Governor is doing what he was elected to do and firmly believes his record will withstand any recall effort,” said spokesperson Corey Young in an email. “While the recall group is focused on politics, the Governor is focused on navigating Alaska during one of the worst crises in the state’s history.”
Young cited the state’s high vaccination rates as proof of Dunleavy’s efforts for Alaskans, particularly for seniors.
“Governor Dunleavy will continue to fight for the full PFD and push forward capital budget projects which will stimulate the economy and put people to work,” Young said. “Governor Dunleavy stands by his commitment to Alaskans and continues to move forward on the agenda he believes is best for the State of Alaska and what got him elected in the first place.”
• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at (757) 621-1197 or firstname.lastname@example.org.