Thousands of Fairbanks area residents gathered at Pioneer Park on Thursday to sign a petition to recall Gov. Mike Dunleavy.
The group Recall Dunleavy launched its official signature-gathering effort the same day, hosting more than 10 other events across the state in communities from Ketchikan to Nome.
Around 2,500 Fairbanks-area residents signed the petition, with group officials still taking signatures after the event was scheduled to end at 7 p.m. The Fairbanks signatures were paired with reports of more than 7,000 signatures collected in Anchorage.
According to Recall Dunleavy officials, the organized effort began shortly after Dunleavy released his operating budget vetoes at the end of June, cutting $444 million from the budget.
A number of attendees at Thursday's event identified the vetoes as the impetus for their signing.
Don Larson, a member of the University of Alaska Fairbanks faculty, was at the event with his wife, Lindy.
"It feels like this is the last option we have at this point since our governor has refused to compromise on anything," Larson said. "His attempts to defund the university so drastically, our social safety net, Senior Benefits, it's abhorrent and terrible."
The Larsons have a 2-year-old child and both expressed concern their family might have to move if Don lost his job.
Patricia Neubert, another signer, said she has lived in Fairbanks for 45 years and wants to protect the state.
"I am totally opposed to what Governor Dunleavy is doing to the university, to the whole state," she said. "It's just terrible, he needs to go."
Don Cameron attended the event with his wife. Both have been in Alaska since 1974. Cameron felt adamant that Dunleavy did not belong in office.
"He's not a governor," he said. "With all his cuts to the university, to health care, to the villages, to the arts. I want to get this guy out."
Trena Dalton, born and raised in Alaska, works at UAF Facilities Services as an HVAC specialist. She noted that she has the job today because of her training through the UAF technical college.
"It's my job on the line. I started as a student in the HVAC shop, and I wasn't really sure what I was doing, but I was able to learn a lot from everyone there and now just two years later I'm a full-time employee because of the skills I built up as a student," she said. "But I was the last hired in the shop and I will probably be the first to go because of the budget cuts."
The recall process in Alaska requires a number of steps, the first of which is to gather signatures from 10 percent of voters who participated in the last election, meaning 28,501 based on the last election's voter turnout. That effort began Thursday and will continue until signatures have been gathered and an application can be sent to the the director of the Division of Elections.
While those who sign the petition are required to be registered voters, they are not required to have voted in the last election.
State law designates only a few legal grounds upon which a public official can be recalled: lack of fitness, incompetence, neglect of duties and corruption.
According to Meda DeWitt, chair of the recall effort, the group is going with the first three.
Specifically, the group points to Dunleavy's failure to appoint a judge within a statutory time frame and the use of his veto power to reduce funding for the courts after a ruling on abortion funding with which he disagreed.
Fairbanks recall coordinators said they plan to schedule additional signature-gathering events in the coming weeks and will be updating the www.recalldunleavy.org website with information.
Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.