Recall Dunleavy group files appeal, calling rejection ‘completely expected’

Recall Dunleavy campaign co-chair Vic Fischer poses with the recall application at the Anchorage Division of Elections office on Sept. 5, 2019. (Photo by Matt Buxton/TMS)

Less than 24 hours after the Division of Elections announced it had rejected the petition to recall Republican Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy, the group backing the recall has filed its appeal with the Anchorage Superior Court.

The Recall Dunleavy campaign called the decision, based on the legal opinion of Attorney General Kevin Clarkson, “completely expected” in a news release announcing the appeal. The group called the rejection just the latest in a series of questionable actions by the Dunleavy administration that fueled the recall.

“Attorney General Clarkson’s rejection was completely expected,” said Scott Kendall, counsel to Recall Dunleavy and former chief of staff for former Gov. Bill Walker. “After all, he was one of Governor Dunleavy’s chief advisors as he took the radical and unacceptable actions that gave rise to the recall. Rather than provide the Division of Elections with independent counsel as he should, Clarkson took it on himself to essentially grade his own homework. It should come as no surprise he gave himself a passing grade.”

Clarkson’s opinion didn’t dispute many of the underpinnings of the recall but argued that they didn’t meet the legal grounds for a recall. He called the claims centering on Dunleavy’s refusal to appoint a judge on time “procedural” and didn’t qualify as neglecting his duty.

The Recall Dunleavy group also based the recall on the governor’s veto of court funds for an abortion ruling he didn’t like, for a state-funded campaign targeting his opponents and boosting his supporters and a veto that mistakenly targeted incorrect funds.

Today’s appeal doesn’t specifically address Clarkson’s legal rationale, but instead asks the Superior Court to enforce the constitution and state law.

“The Director has unlawfully denied Recall Dunleavy and the citizens of Alaska the opportunity to exercise their constitutional and statutory right to recall public officials by refusing to certify the recall petition,” argues the filing. “The director’s refusal to certify the recall application is incorrect as a matter of law” and “violates provisions of the Alaska Constitution and other provisions of law related to the recall process.”

[PDF: Read the REcall Dunleavy appeal]

The appeal asks the court to determine that the state was wrong in rejecting the application, declare that the application was proper and issue an injunction to force the Director of the Division of elections to print and distribute the petition booklets to Recall Dunleavy.

Why it matters

The rejection and the appeal to the courts is expected.

What’s particularly interesting is that it also comes on the day that an Anchorage court will be hearing oral arguments from the ACLU of Alaska in a case challenging Dunleavy’s vetoes targeting the court system. Dunleavy vetoed the court system as retribution for a ruling that found an abortion law violated the Alaska Constitution. The ACLU argues that the move is an unconstitutional violation of powers and an attempt to exert political influence on the courts.

This claim is part of the Recall Dunleavy’s grounds for a recall.

It’s a case that will likely have some appeal to the court. Alaska Supreme Court Justice Joel Bolger recently told the Alaska Federation of Natives’ annual convention to help defend the court system against political pressure.

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