The COVID-19 pandemic has upended daily life and forced everyone to rethink the way we do things, and that’s certainly been the case for the Recall Dunleavy campaign.
Social distancing and the spread of the virus put an end to traditional signature-gathering efforts—the last big drive was at the start of the Iditarod, which feels like a lifetime ago—and the Recall Dunleavy campaign has since switched to a by-mail system.
Today the campaign announced that since the program’s launch, it’s sent out 20,000 by-mail petition booklets to Alaska voters that contain a single petition sheet with room for 15 signatures. It’s also launched an advertising campaign on television and radio stations following the campaign’s victory in the Alaska Supreme Court last week.
“Winning in Alaska Supreme Court has energized Alaskans to sign the petition at home as soon as possible,” said Aaron Welterlen, a steering committee member, in a prepared statement. “When we collect another 40,000 signatures this summer, Alaskans will send one unified message together: we deserve a competent governor who respects the constitution and is equipped to lead us through a full economic recovery.”
The Alaska Supreme Court last week issued an order upholding a Superior Court ruling that found all but one of the Recall Dunleavy campaign’s claims against Gov. Mike Dunleavy met the legal standard to move forward with the recall. The court had allowed the campaign to begin collecting signatures earlier this year, finding that delays on top of the state’s initial rejection of the petition would harm the effort.
The campaign seeks to remove Dunleavy for office based on the following grounds: His refusal to appoint a judge by the 45-day deadline in law, his use of state resources for an advertising campaign against his political opponents, his politically motivated veto of the Alaska Court System and a mistaken veto of Medicaid funds.
There was massive public backlash and demonstrations against the governor following his vetoes last year. The Legislature eventually restored most of the items though many were vetoed by the governor for a second time.
This year, Dunleavy repeated many of the vetoes that sparked public outrage last year, including public broadcasting, community aid and the Alaska Marine Highway System. He also vetoed $30 million from K-12 education. The governor initially claimed that several of the vetoes could be replaced by federal CARES Act funding, but he’s since backpedaled on that and his administration has acknowledged they were largely intended as budget-cutting measures.
The campaign gathered 21,000 signatures in the two weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic put an end to the big drives. Things have since slowed, and as of May 4 the campaign had gathered 34,802 signatures of the 71,252 needed to call a special election. Still, every signature is a step toward the campaigns goal, said campaign manager Claire Pywell in a prepared statement.
“This has never been done before,” she said. “Every signature is a critical step towards accomplishing something huge for Alaska. Together, we’re making history by collecting more signatures than any people-powered campaign in the state’s history.”
Last summer, it took about five weeks for the group to gather nearly 50,000 signatures for recall application.
If the signature-gathering effort and special election are successful, Dunleavy would be replaced by Republican Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer, a former state senator from Anchorage.