From left, Michele Vasquez, Eric Trieder, Fay Herold, Nelma Treider and Karyn Griffin smile for a photo while collecting signatures to recall Governor Mike Dunleavy in Soldotna Creek Park on Aug. 7, 2019. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

From left, Michele Vasquez, Eric Trieder, Fay Herold, Nelma Treider and Karyn Griffin smile for a photo while collecting signatures to recall Governor Mike Dunleavy in Soldotna Creek Park on Aug. 7, 2019. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Dunleavy recall efforts hit the central peninsula

The recall campaign is set to release on Friday morning the number of signatures collected so far.

A statewide effort to recall Gov. Mike Dunleavy officially kicked off last Thursday, and on Wednesday several peninsula organizers set up a booth at Soldotna Creek Park to collect signatures.

Vickie Herrmann from Kenai said that she signed the application during Wednesday’s signature drive because she is concerned about reduced funding for substance abuse treatment and public education, among other things.

“How could you take funding away from schools?” Herrmann said.

Andrew Hanrahan, a commercial fisherman from Kasilof, also signed an application Wednesday. He said he does not feel that the governor has the state’s best interests in mind.

“Dunleavy’s views are extraordinarily short-sighted,” Hanrahan said. “The guy is a liar, and he’s not doing what’s best for Alaska.”

The recall effort comes in the wake of two special legislative sessions that saw the governor and lawmakers go back and forth on issues concerning the state’s budget and the appropriate amount for the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend. Dunleavy campaigned on promises of significantly reducing the state’s budget and issuing a $3,000 dividend check to each Alaska resident. The recall effort is in response to some of the specific actions that he has taken in his first year as governor.

Petitioners have cited four actions by Dunleavy as demonstrating either a neglect of duties, incompetence or a lack of fitness for the office: his refusal to appoint a judge to the Palmer Superior Court within 45 days of receiving nominations; his alleged use of state funds to purchase electronic advertisements and direct mailers that made partisan statements about political opponents and supporters; his use of the line-item veto to withhold funds from the judiciary in response to a court decision on abortion, and his veto of $18 million from state Medicaid funding that was made in error.

Recalling an elected official in Alaska is a multistep process. In order to file the application for a recall petition, a number of signatures must be collected equal to 10% of people who voted in the last election. In this case, that number is 28,501.

The recall campaign is set to release on Friday morning the number of signatures collected, but has not given any specifics. Seward organizer Fay Herold said on Wednesday that the statewide campaign was well over halfway to reaching its first goal. Herold added that they collected more than 10,000 signatures within the first day of the recall.

After filing the application, it will either be approved or rejected by the state’s Division of Elections, and from there organizers will have to collect at least another 71,252 signatures, which is 25% of the number of voters in the last election. If that number is reached and the petition is accepted, a special election will be held within 60-90 days and the recall question will appear on the ballot of the next statewide election. Herold said that, if all goes according to plan, this could take place as early as next summer.

If a majority of voters decide to recall the governor, the normal succession protocol will kick in and Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer will serve as governor for the remainder of Dunelavy’s term.

Herold said that the recall coalition is nonpartisan and citizen-led. Due to the initial outpouring of signatures, Herold and other organizers are “extremely confident” that they will reach their goals.

“We can’t get volunteers to the petition locations quick enough,” Herold said. “And it’s all been by word-of-mouth. We’ve spent no advertising money but Alaskans are coming out of the woodwork to sign.”

On the peninsula, volunteers have already collected signatures during Salmonfest and in Homer, Ninilchiik, Nikiski and Soldotna. Organizers estimated that hundreds of signatures were collected yesterday at Soldotna Creek Park.

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