There are few places throughout Alaska history where I wish I could be in that room like a fly on the wall. The Tanana Chiefs’ first meeting with Judge Wickersham in Fairbanks (which is considered one of the catalysts for the next event); Richard Nixon signing the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act in 1971; and the 2010 election where Senator Lisa Murkowski was the first elected official to win by a write-in campaign in over 50 years. Just to name a few.
The other day I got to witness another such event at Cuddy Park in downtown Anchorage. Hundreds of Alaskan residents filtered into the park as volunteers with clipboards helped registered voters sign petitions at one of the statewide Recall Dunleavy campaign kick-off events.
Just like any job – telling someone they are not performing the job adequately is not an easy or fun task for a manager. And just like a manager, Alaskans are in the position now to deliver that termination letter or at the very least a six-month job review of his performance as Alaska’s Governor.
The review isn’t good and my recommendation is to fire Dunleavy for many of the same reasons the campaign has listed: refusing to appoint a judge for political reasons, misusing state funds by sending out one-sided advertisements, violating the separation of powers in an attempt to punish our judicial system for doing their job, and incompetently vetoing state funds.
As I walked around Cuddy park the other day, I saw lines gather around volunteers waiting to sign and even at the entrance there was a line of people in the “quick lines” for participants who couldn’t attend the event but wanted to stop by and sign the petition.
I thought back to November when Dunleavy was elected. We, Alaskans, were not given a fair choice for Governor. Then Governor Walker was berated by political parties for the tough choices he had to make and his campaign went further down in flames as Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott resigned, only weeks away from the election, over deeply coded allegations he sexually harassed a woman. We were then left with two choices: Dunleavy and Begich. On paper, Dunleavy may have fairly won, but Alaskans were given the shaft in the election. We were never given a chance to choose from a group of highly skilled and competent leaders.
While the petition to recall Dunleavy is a long-shot, we must try to give our state the chance at fair leadership.
Dear Alaskans reading this: long-shots are our thing.
Remember in 2010, Alaskans learned to spell Murkowski’s name to write in on the ballot. Many Alaska Native elders also recall times when our cultures did not get along. We fought with each other and loyally defended our ancestral homelands. Despite century-long disputes between tribes, we banded together and fought back against colonization to protect Alaskan lands from outside interests. Alaska has a history of overcoming our differences to hit a long-shot on the target.
So where do we go from here?
There are several stages of this process.
The first stage is getting signatures from registered Alaska voters to apply for the petition which began August 1, 2019. They need 28,501 signatures for this and early reports say the campaign gathered 10,000 on the first day.
The second stage is the petition, the campaign will need to gather 71,252 signatures or 25% of the total number of voters having voted in the 2018 General Election.
Once the petition is returned the Director of the Division of Elections will announce a special election held within 60-90 days of approval. The question on the ballot will essentially ask: Shall Governor Michael J. Dunleavy be recalled from office?
This effort is led by Alaskans as diverse as our vast landscapes. Governor Dunleavy has done a piss poor job the last nine months. He’s lied and he’s brought on outside interests to run our state’s budget office and given donors to his campaign high positions and contracts in his office. I still remember hearing Donna Arduin say how excited she was to visit other parts of the state because she hadn’t been to places like Fairbanks or Nome. She has never even been to highly populated (according to Alaska standards) parts of our state, yet she is making decisions for us. Look I’m not saying Governor Walker was the best guy ever, but he at least had Alaskans in his cabinet making huge decisions based on their lived Alaskan experience.
Finally – while some may say this is a wake-up call to Alaskans, I say this is a reminder of the critical importance that we are diligent in what our values are as Alaskans and who gets to run our state. Big oil and big money as well as ill-equipped people will always try to weasel their way into these positions. Murkowski winning the 2010 election as a write-in candidate was a historic victory, but that didn’t stop her opponent when he tried to unseat her again in 2014.
This state is young and the newer generations are understanding our importance in holding elected leadership accountable to the job they were hired to do.
The campaign sounds easy and doable but the wheels of justice turn ever so slowly and this will surely be an uphill albeit doable battle. There’s no better state to protect, with bigger mountains, cooler oceans, and diversely vast landscapes for as far as the eye can see; and I am excited to witness this event in Alaska’s history.