News-Miner opinion: With next year’s election looming, the Recall Dunleavy campaign has done the right thing in ending its two-year effort to unseat Gov. Mike Dunleavy.
The recall campaign, which began Aug. 1, 2019, with much media fanfare, had until June to submit the 71,252 signatures from registered voters necessary to force a recall election. Backers say they decided to spend their efforts on the upcoming elections rather than pursuing the recall.
Dunleavy was sworn into office Dec. 3, 2018. The recall effort got underway after he released his “austerity budget” in February 2019 and then cut $444 million from the already-trimmed operating budget approved by the Legislature in June.
The Division of Elections refused to certify the recall application, saying its allegations against Dunleavy were not legally or factually sufficient for recall. Recall Dunleavy went to the Alaska Superior Court, which backed the recall effort. The state appealed to the Alaska Supreme Court, but lost, clearing the way for Recall Dunleavy to gather signatures for a possible recall election. That effort has ended.
With the problems facing Alaska — a lack of a fiscal plan, a pandemic, an iffy economy and an election, among others — the recall effort had finally amounted to little more than a niggling distraction occasionally mentioned by the news media. Its demise gives Alaskans one less thing to fret about.
There, of course, could be other reasons for pulling the plug. When the governor announced his intention to run for re-election, the Alaska Public Offices Commission told Keep Dunleavy, a group supporting the governor and opposing his recall, and Recall Dunleavy the rules were about to change: With Dunleavy’s announcement, they would have to begin naming their three largest campaign donors.
Recall Dunleavy never has revealed who paid for its effort. State law allows such campaigns to collect and spend money from anybody, except foreign interests, without revealing the money’s source or how it was spent, at least until after the effort gathered enough signatures from registered voters to win a ballot spot.
If any signature-gathering money were to be plowed into a recall election campaign, campaign backers would be forced to report every contribution and expenditure since the effort’s start. If none of the signature-gathering money ever ended up in the election campaign, its source would remain secret.
Alaskans, with the ill-fated recall effort behind them, now can concentrate on what likely will be a hard-fought gubernatorial race. So far, Dunleavy says he is in, and former independent Gov. Bill Walker says he is in, too. Former Democratic Rep. Les Gara says he will run, and failed U.S. Senate candidate Al Gross is a possible. State Sen. Bill Wielechowski has been mentioned as a possibility, as has former lieutenant governor and state Health and Social Services Commissioner Valerie Davidson, who’s on leave as president of Alaska Pacific University to act as interim head of Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium.
So far, though, the state Division of Elections reports Libertarian William “Billy” Toien is the only candidate officially listed with the state as a candidate in the primary election.
If you are so inclined, the last day to sign up with the state for the primary election is June 1, 2022.