Election official rejects effort to recall Alaska governor

FILE - In this March 26, 2019, file photo, protesters unfurl a banner as Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks during a roadshow with Americans for Prosperity in 49th State Brewing Company in Anchorage, Alaska. A fight is brewing over whether Dunleavy, a Republican who took office in Dec. 2018, should be recalled. Critics say he’s incompetent and has recklessly tried to cut spending while supporters see a politically motivated attempt to undo the last election.

The group seeking to recall Gov. Mike Dunleavy from office is suing the state Division of Elections over the rejection of the recall application. The group is also seeking an expedited legal process after the Department of Law reportedly refused to have a conversation about the lawsuit.

The recall group's legal complaint was filed Tuesday morning in the Anchorage Superior Court, just one day after Elections Director Gail Fenumiai released the rejection at the direction of Attorney General Kevin Clarkson.

The Recall Dunleavy legal team is asking for the courts to declare the rejection incorrect, declare the recall application legal in the proper form, issue an injunction certifying the application and ensuring signature booklets are printed, and award the group all legal fees. And they have asked that it all be done rapidly.

Scott Kendall, legal counsel to the Recall Dunleavy group, said the group expected Clarkson to reject the application given his place in the Dunleavy administration.

"After all, he was one of Governor Dunleavy’s chief advisers as he took the radical and unacceptable actions that gave rise to the recall," Kendall said in a statement. "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.

“Today, we move forward. We appeal this rejection on behalf of the 49,000 Alaskans who signed on to exercise their constitutional right to remove Governor Dunleavy from office.”

The attorney general's office did not directly comment on the appeal. Assistant Attorney General Maria Bahr wrote in a Tuesday afternoon email to the Daily News-Miner that the Department of Law plans to "review and respond in a timely fashion" to the lawsuit.

Recall Dunleavy Attorney Jahna Lindemuth provided information that shows otherwise.

Attached to the affidavit as evidence is an email Lindemuth sent to the Department of Law on Tuesday hoping to discuss legal proceedings over the lawsuit. Also included is the response from Department of Law Special Litigation Chief Margaret Paton Walsh stating the department did not see any need to expedite the process and suggesting the group take it up with the courts.

The recall group later filed an emergency motion requesting an expedited case. According to the motion filed Tuesday afternoon, the group hopes to have a scheduling conference with the Department of Law on Friday with oral arguments beginning the week of Dec. 2.

The case has been assigned to Anchorage Superior Court Judge Una Sonia Gandbhir.

Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.