Dunleavy recall event in Fairbanks

Hundreds of people from all political persuasions visited Fairbanks’ Pioneer Park on Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019, the first day of a campaign to recall Gov. Mike Dunleavy from office, to sign the official Recall Dunleavy petition. 

The Recall Dunleavy campaign — a grassroots effort to remove Alaska’s governor from office — has called it quits.

Organizer Meda DeWitt issued a lengthy announcement Wednesday outlining reasons for abandoning the campaign and acknowledging it was short of the signatures needed to force a special recall vote. The group said it collected 62,373 signatures of 71,252 required.

“With a berry bucket full of hope I look to the people’s vote for the most efficient resolution to this long effort to protect our state and fellow Alaskans,” DeWitt wrote in the email to supporters.

“This is still in your hands and I believe in YOU,” DeWitt wrote, a reference to voting in the next governor’s race.

Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy, elected in 2018, intends to seek a second term. Former Gov. Bill Walker, an independent, plans to run, as does Democrat Les Gara, a former state lawmaker.

“The Alaska Republican Party is pleased, but not surprised, that the effort to recall Gov. Mike Dunleavy was terminated,” said Ann Brown, who chairs the Alaska Republican Party.

“We believe a majority of voters understand that Gov. Dunleavy has worked hard for all Alaskans and that hard work will be rewarded by his re-election to a second term next year,” Brown said.

Dunleavy’s office said Wednesday that the governor is concentrated on managing Alaska through difficult times.

“While the recall group focused on politics, Gov. Dunleavy continues to fight for enshrining the PFD and the Permanent Fund in the Constitution, public safety and expanding economic opportunities for all Alaskans,” said Jeff Turner, deputy communications director.

“He stands by his commitment to Alaskans and continues to move forward on the agenda he believes is best for the state of Alaska and what got him elected in the first place,” Turner said.

Rep. Adam Wool, a Fairbanks Democrat, said that since “we’re heading into an election year very soon, it makes sense that the recall effort be dismantled.”

“Covid definitely had an effect on their campaign, and the window seems to have closed,” Wool said. “If they want to defeat Dunleavy, they’ll have to do it the old-fashioned way next November.”

Change in focus

DeWitt said in an email from “Team Recall” that the pandemic impacted efforts to collect signatures.

“Timing is everything. Unfortunately last spring, the pandemic broke our stride,” DeWitt wrote. “With a heavy heart the tough decision was made to pull back our signature gathering efforts for the safety of hundreds of our volunteers.”

The abrupt end to the Recall Dunleavy campaign follows a decision by the Alaska Supreme Court in July that had enabled the effort to continue.

“The people asked to sign petitions must decide whether the allegations are serious enough to warrant a recall election; each voter in the voting booth must decide whether the allegations are serious enough to warrant removal from office,” Alaska’s highest court stated in the ruling.

The movement to recall the governor launched in July 2019 after Dunleavy proposed cutting state services. Organizers of the recall campaign accused Dunleavy of allowing state funds to be used for partisan ads and of accounting errors in budget vetoes.

Dunleavy called the accusations a “baseless” attack by political opponents.

Turner, Dunleavy’s spokesman, said Wednesday that the governor “always believed his record would withstand any recall effort.”

“He stands by his commitment to Alaskans and continues to move forward on the agenda he believes is best for the state of Alaska and what got him elected in the first place,” he said.

Contact Linda F. Hersey at 907-459-7575 or by email at lhersey@newsminer.com. Follow her at twitter.com/FDNMpolitics.