A group of Anchorage conservatives intent on removing Rep. Jason Grenn from office filed a recall petition against the independent this week. The petition accuses Grenn of incompetence, lack of fitness and neglect of duties.
It’s already been rejected, The Midnight Sun has learned. The problem? The group filed the paperwork with the Municipality of Anchorage and not the state.
According to documents provided to and confirmed authentic by The Midnight Sun, the recall petition was brought by Dean Cannon and David Nees, who’s a perennial candidate in Anchorage local and state elections. The effort has been brewing for at least a month and featured regular updates on the Recall District 22 Representative Jason Grenn Facebook page.
It was submitted to the Municipal Clerk’s office on June 11, the same day the group proudly announced the submission of its petition on Facebook.
The clerk’s office reached out to the city’s attorney to ask whether it should proceed with the recall petition. The response?
“No. Jason Grenn is a state legislator, not a municipal official. The municipal recall process applies to ‘official[s] … elected or appointed to elective municipal office.’ State law requires applications for a petition to recall a member of the state legislature to be filed with the Director of the Alaska Division of Elections.”
The footnote of the legal memorandum even links to the House Majority Coalition’s website as evidence of his non-municipal elected office.
The real bar is much higher
The bar for recalling a state elected official is much higher than it is for municipal elected officials.
The state requires 10 percent of voters from the previous general election to even be considered by the lieutenant governor, in this case that would be 768 signatures. The actual petition for the ballot requires 25 percent of the general election vote, which in would be 1,921 signatures.
The recall petition filed with the Anchorage clerk’s office has 11 signatures, including former Rep. Liz Vazquez. Vazquez lost to Grenn in 2016 election, trailing Grenn by less than 200 votes.
The absurd arguments for recall
The one thing the recall effort did get right was the state reasons for recall: incompetence, lack of fitness and neglect of duties. The fourth reason in state law is corruption, but it wasn’t invoked here.
Here’s the reasoning the group told the Anchorage clerk’s office that Grenn should be recalled:
Let’s break some of these down.
Lack of fitness. First of all, this is usually reserved for people who are physically or mentally unfit to serve office. Not voting the exact way you wanted him to vote doesn’t qualify. Also, Grenn kept his promise of voting for a smaller budget than last year’s. According to the budget summary released by the Office of Management and Budget, the state budget was 0.8 percent smaller than last year’s in spending. In undesignated general fund spending, which is the sort most people measure budgets by, there was 1.7 percent less spent overall. Promise kept.
Incompetence. This one is similar to the lack of fitness issue. Again, voting for a progressive income tax isn’t incompetent, but filing your recall petition against a state legislator with a local government might be.
Also, if 180 days in session is grounds for incompetence, then there are plenty of people with a lot more blame than Grenn. There are many times where Grenn has taken to social media to voice support for a middle ground–even conservative-leaning–deal to end the session.
Neglect of duties. The group is pointing to a vote for this one. Really? At least point out that Grenn went to Washington, D.C., this week for an Centrist Project’s “Independents Day” event.
Even if the group goes and gets the 757 more signatures it needs to properly begin the recall effort with the state don’t expect them to pass muster with the lieutenant governor’s office.
What’s eating Sand Lake?
At the heart of this issue isn’t a sincere belief that Grenn has done anything wrong, instead this is purely political. Independents like Walker and Grenn have found a winning strategy to buck the Republican establishment’s stranglehold on elected office and many are fuming. Filing poorly reasoned recall petitions with the wrong election office isn’t the way to win the seat back.
As outlined in today’s Friday in the Sun, this effort appears to have originated from the Sand Lake Community Council. A few of the group signed the petition, its vice president is a likely Republican challenger to Grenn and the person Grenn beat for his seat, Vazquez, holds a few chair positions with the council.
The last recall effort in Anchorage was over former Rep. Lindsay Holmes’ defection from the Democratic minority to the Republican majority, a move that came with a seat on the House Finance Committee. In that case, the district had a somewhat reasonable case to say they had been deceived by Holmes during the election and it was still thrown out.