Gov. Mike Dunleavy needs to brush up on the state laws dealing with his recall.
Dunleavy has already said that he sees no legal justification for a recall, but the process will proceed. It will likely go to the courts when Attorney General Kevin Clarkson reveals whatever legal grounds he has invented to reject the petition.
The legal questions are fairly simple, however, and the courts will not allow the governor and his allies to drag this out for years.
The strongest claim against Dunleavy is that he refused to follow the law and appoint a judge on the required timetable. The facts about that are not in doubt and the history of recall cases in Alaska shows a preference by the courts to allow recall campaigns to advance to the ballot.
Motivated in large part by Dunleavy’s budget bungling, about 50,000 Alaskans signed the recall petition in about a month, with no significant spending on advertising or promotion.
Dunleavy ignored months of public testimony about his ill-advised budget and went ahead in June with vetoes opposed by the public and a majority of the Legislature. The recall captured his attention in August and forced him to make a $150 million retreat, but he won’t admit it.
According to Dunleavy, some recall supporters have changed their minds. They may have “buyer’s remorse and they actually like some of the things that I have done.”
In a series of interviews with right-wing outlets and speeches to Republicans, Dunleavy blames the recall on those who opposed his election a year ago, the same people who don’t like President Donald Trump. He claims that his support of Trump is a “big part” of the recall campaign.
The effort to align himself with a beleaguered Trump appears to be aimed at generating support, attention and financial contributions from the Lower 48.
“The interesting thing is, just like the president, people were talking about a recall just two months after I was elected, two months into a term,” Dunleavy told right-wing radio host Joe Pags.
“And so, just like the president who they were talking about potentially impeaching even before he got into office, it’s a tool for folks on the left that did not win an election.”
“And so this is really about the people of Alaska, less about me, but what they wanted and what I’m implementing, these folks are trying to take away through a potential recall,” Dunleavy said.
He said, “We’re confident that once we get our message really going and explain to people what happened, that hopefully this will allow us to get back to governing and stop the recall issue.”
Dunleavy passed on some misinformation to Pags about the laws governing the recall campaign in Alaska and the process ahead.
He told Pags that if the state certifies the “petition for recall then it goes on the ballot in a special election. And basically the question is, ‘Do you wish to retain the governor of Alaska or not?’ If I’m retained, it’s over. We continue our term. If not, then the lieutenant governor is in there for a placeholder until there’s a special election.”
But that’s not the process.
If the state certifies the recall petition or if the courts order the state to do so — which is more likely — there will be a second round of signature gathering. The recall proponents will need to collect more than 71,250 signatures of Alaska voters to force an election. The details are here.
After the signatures are verified, the Division of Elections will hold an election in 60 to 90 days.
If a majority of voters decide to recall Dunleavy, he will be removed from office and Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer will become governor. Meyer would serve, not as a placeholder until a special election is called, but until the term ends in 2022.
Article III, Section 11 of the Alaska Constitution puts it this way: “In case of a vacancy in the office of governor for any reason, the lieutenant governor shall succeed to the office for the remainder of the term.
More than a quarter-century ago, a Fairbanks Superior Court found Lt. Gov. Jack Coghill subject to a recall because he had not read the election statutes and had said so in public. The Coghill recall, which never advanced, did not have the public support that the Dunleavy recall has.
Dermot Cole is a longtime Alaskan, an author of several history books and a former Daily News-Miner staff columnist who now writes an occasional column on Alaska politics and history. His email address is email@example.com.