Today is election day in states like New Jersey and Virginia, where there are big governors’ races. But even though voters aren’t going to the polls in Alaska, it’s not totally quiet here. A group that wants to remove state legislator Lindsey Holmes from office is turning in their recall application Wednesday morning.
Recall sponsors believe that the Anchorage representative is “unfit” for office because she changed her party affiliation from Democrat to Republican before starting her term. They’ve collected 1,101 signatures from people supporting their application, and 808 of those need to come from registered voters in Holmes’ district.
Wigi Tozzi is helping lead the effort, and he says he’s confident that most of their signatures are valid.
“I think that one of the things that Rep. Holmes may have been counting on is the complacency of the voters in her district, and we are not complacent.”
The recall process is long and complicated. Once the application is submitted, the Division of Elections verifies the signatures and judges the argument for the recall. If the application is accepted, sponsors then have to collect another round of signatures, this time from 25 percent of the district’s voters — or 2020 signatures, in this case. Tozzi says they have volunteers ready to knock on doors, and they have plenty of tennis ball bumper stickers to hand out, referencing a controversial appropriation for tennis courts that Holmes supported.
If the sponsors trigger a special election and the recall question is successful, Holmes would have to give up her office. But there wouldn’t be a special election to replace her. Her seat would be treated like any other vacancy, where the governor has a month to decide on an appointment. Because of the recall group’s timing, there’s the possibility that could happen during the legislative session. Tozzi says that he would rather have no representation over Holmes.
“Regardless of what happens in the legislature in terms of whether or not we would create a vacancy in the middle of the session is in some respects besides the point. You can’t — you cannot — abuse the process like that and expect people to just stand by.”
Tozzi adds that the recall effort is not so much about Holmes’ conversion as it is the timing. He says that because Alaska has closed primaries, switching parties before being sworn into office weakens the election system. He thinks Holmes’ move could incentivize similar behavior from candidates who want to avoid competitive primaries and see a way to manipulate the electoral process.
Since switching parties, Holmes has largely voted with the Republican majority. She did split from her caucus to vote against a “Stand Your Ground” law and against a bill that would have required teachers to put more years in before getting tenure. Holmes has defended the switch in previous conversations with APRN. She said she had been more motivated business issues in recent years, and the move was borne from that. Holmes has also said that being part of the majority caucus has allowed her to bring more projects to her district. Holmes did not respond to a request for an interview in time for this story.
There has never been a successful attempt to recall a legislator in Alaska. A group of Ketchikan voters tried to remove former Rep. Kyle Johansen from office in 2011, but the Division of Elections rejected the argument that renouncing his leadership position and caucus membership qualified as incompetence and neglect of duties.