Alaska’s last major gathering of people was the start of the 2020 Iditarod, where the streets and trails of Anchorage were packed with people vying for a good vantage point to watch the dogs set off on the ceremonial start of the 1,000-mile race.
At nearly every corner in downtown and even at the Trailgate party on Chester Creek there were volunteers carrying signature booklets for the effort to recall Alaska’s Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy, busily gathering signatures. That was, of course, the last great big gathering of Alaskans before the covid-19 pandemic brought an abrupt end to everything, including signature gathering efforts, by the following weekend.
The logistical difficulties of the pandemic as well as the governor’s serviceable initial handling of the pandemic put a damper on efforts (though they’ve continued to collect signatures by mail) but as the pandemic has drawn on and new scandals have cropped up around Dunleavy, there’s been a renewed interest in the recall.
Today, the Recall Dunleavy campaign announced an effort to reboot the campaign and make its final push for the roughly 22,000 signatures needed to call a special election. Several campaign organizers, including The Midnight Sun’s cartoonist Pat Race, spoke about the drive to get to the finish line.
“It’s time to remember what we’re doing and why we’re doing it,” Race said, referencing the claims grounds for recall which include ignoring laws on judicial appointments, misuse of state funds for political purposes and an illegal veto of court money. All were upheld by the Alaska Supreme Court as grounds for recall. “There’s really going to be minimal consequences unless we take action and hold him to account. The Alaska Constitution says all political power is inherent in the people and I think this recall is an expression of that power. If we don’t do something about this ongoing pattern of illegal activity and bad faith governance. If we don’t him accountable, no one will.”
The group said the governor’s handling of sexual harassment by former Attorney General Kevin Clarkson is one of the reasons to renew support for the campaign even though the grounds for recall cannot be altered at this point.
“They don’t deserve to be there,” said Alaska AFL-CIO President Vince Beltrami, when asked about the fact that Dunleavy is more than halfway through his term. “Two more years is way too long.”
The group hopes to collect the remaining signatures by mid-March, which would put the special election somewhere in the neighborhood of July of this year. The effort set a record pace for the signatures needed for its application but was set back with legal challenges mounted by the state. Anyone who signed the initial application in 2019 can sign the second petition needed to call an election.
Erin Jackson, an activist who unfurled a “RECALL DUNLEAVY” banner at March 26, 2019 Americans for Prosperity-funded town hall by the governor, also spoke at the event and reflected on how far the effort has come from that day.
“It means the future of our state. I’ve lived here since I was 1. Alaska is my home and I love it dearly and I love the people and it means the world to me to see it thrive and this governor is the antithesis of a good leader. He has broken the law. He has misrepresented himself. HE has decimated our economy. He has destroyed our university system. He’s going after education. He’s going after the ferry system,” she said. “As a lifetime Alaskan, he doesn’t represent me and doesn’t represent what I know to be Alaskan. What this means to me is that 2020 was a dumpster fire, right? This whole year was just a nightmare. This is a new start. 2021 is when we start to set our state to right. We take it back and we do what we need to do so we make sure everybody has opportunity and everybody can thrive.”
For information on how to sign, visit RecallDunleavy.org.