Campaign to recall Gov. Dunleavy set to start August 1

Governor Mike Dunleavy addresses the “Rally to Restore the PFD” in Wasilla earlier this year. (Photo by Wesley Early, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage)

A statewide campaign to recall Governor Mike Dunleavy officially launches Thursday. Organizers will begin gathering signatures in a multi-step process that will have to clear numerous hurdles over the next several months to appear on a ballot.

Under Alaska law, there are four specific criteria for a recall.

“We’re going to be going with: Neglect of duties, incompetence, and lack of fitness,” said Recall Dunleavy chair Meda DeWitt, citing three of the four legal justifications; the fourth is corruption.

Volunteers looked at a number of different actions by the Dunleavy administration over the last several months that could meet the legal requirements for a recall petition. According to DeWitt, those include keeping a judgeship in Palmer open beyond a 45-day limit, using state funds for partisan advertisements online, accounting errors in budget vetoes and striking money from the state court system over a ruling on abortion access. That same issue is the basis of a lawsuit brought against the state by the American Civil Liberties Union in Alaska.

The “Recall Dunleavy” campaign is holding events around the state Thursday to begin gathering signatures. According to organizers, they need 28,501 Alaskans to support the effort in order to advance it to the Director of the Division of Elections for review. After that, the petition would need signatures from a quarter of the electorate that turned out in last year’s election. In this case, that is more than 71,000.

The last time there was a similar campaign against a sitting governor was 1992, and according to the Division of Elections, the effort was not deemed legally sufficient to prompt a recall election. DeWitt, though, says her group is optimistic.

“We are the state that learned how to spell ‘Murkowski’ to avoid a similar train-wreck,” she said.

That’s a reference to Senator Lisa Murkowski’s 2010 write-in campaign over Joe Miller, who beat her in the Republican primary only to lose in the general election.

DeWitt said the campaign hopes to submit the first round of petition signatures no later than December.

A spokesperson for Dunleavy did not immediately return a request for comment Tuesday afternoon.