On Aug. 1, a diverse group of Alaskans embarked on the difficult journey to recall Gov. Mike Dunleavy from office. This group spans Alaska’s full political spectrum, uniting us in putting aside party for the good of the state we love. To that end, there is only one label that matters: Alaskan.
In the days and weeks to come, the Dunleavy administration will likely respond that they’ve done nothing “illegal” and that the recall is baseless. They will try to characterize it as a mere political stunt.
Don’t believe them — they are wrong.
In July, I worked with a group of legal experts that includes well-regarded private practice attorneys, as well as former members of the judiciary and former attorneys general. We determined that the Dunleavy administration has violated Alaska law and the Constitution in numerous ways and on numerous occasions. Indeed, to meet the 200-word limit imposed on recall petitions, our group actually had to omit several additional violations in favor of the strongest.
For example, it is indisputable that Gov. Dunleavy violated the law and the Alaska Constitution when he refused to appoint a judge to the Palmer Superior Court. It is also clear that his unprecedented use of public funds to wage political warfare through paid advertisements and mailers violates the Constitution, the Executive Branch Ethics Act, and numerous provisions of campaign finance law.
Dunleavy also launched a direct attack on the separation of powers between the branches of government when he punished the court system for doing its job and reallocated funding in a manner exceeding his constitutional veto power. The facts of these illegal actions cannot be disputed. The only question is whether Alaskans will hold him accountable.
Together with these legal experts, we have crafted a grounds for recall that the Division of Elections, even under the Dunleavy administration, must certify. Should the division fail to do so, we are confident that Alaska’s courts will uphold the law and compel certification.
In short, this is no stunt. Alaskans should expect to have the opportunity to vote, in a matter of months, on whether Gov. Dunleavy will complete his term in office.
Although the legal grounds are strong, recall supporters have a heavy lift to get their petition onto a ballot. In order to start the process, they must circulate the grounds for recall and collect signatures equal to 10% of those who voted in last year’s general election — amounting to nearly 30,000 signatures.
Following the Division of Election’s review and certification of that application, recall supporters must then start over and gather signatures equal to 25% of last year’s turnout — over 71,000. After confirming enough valid signatures are submitted, the Division of Elections will set the recall election at a point within the next 60 to 90 days. Only then can the recall supporters engage in a “campaign” to convince Alaskans that Dunleavy should be removed. Alaska law sets a high bar to recall public officials, but it's not an impossible one.
In Alaska politics, nothing is impossible. In 2010, I served as counsel to our senior U.S. senator’s historic write-in campaign. The pundits said that campaign was “impossible” too. That there was no way someone who wasn’t even on the ballot could win — especially when opposed by candidates endorsed and funded by both major parties. In a warehouse in Juneau, I spent a week watching ballots get counted by hand. What I saw was equal parts surprising and inspiring — over 100,000 Alaskans had chosen to do the “impossible” and write Lisa Murkowski’s name on their ballots, re-electing her to another term.
As in 2010, we are today confronted with an ideology so extreme that it can fairly be characterized as “un-Alaskan.” This dark vision is uniting us across party lines and across the vast landscape of our state.
However, we must all remember that this movement is not about how much we dislike Dunleavy’s policies. It’s about how much we love Alaska.
Have courage, believe in the impossible, and sign the petition — because we have the power to take back our state.
Scott Kendall is an attorney in private practice, serving as counsel to the Recall Dunleavy campaign. He previously served as chief of staff to Gov. Bill Walker.