The turbulent political climate in Alaska has spurred many people to et involved outside of the ballot box. While a statewide effort was recently launched at the beginning of August to recall Gov. Mike Dunleavy, a different recall effort — one aimed at Rep. Gary Knopp, R-Soldotna — has been underway on the Kenai Peninsula since the early days of the legislative session.
Volunteers for the Recall Knopp effort have set up a booth every Wednesday at Soldotna Creek Park. Yesterday, the booth grabbed the attention of several passersbys.
Denele McCarthy, a resident of Soldotna, was one of the Wednesday Market attendees to approach the “Recall Knopp” booth to add her name to the application.
“I think after two special sessions and still not getting the work done, being excused or not, he’s not listening to his constituents,” McCarthy said. “It seems like they just want to raid the PFD and pay for state services that way instead of actually coming up with a fiscal plan.”
Jason Floyd, owner of Ammo Can Coffee in Soldotna and self-described conservative, has been leading this recall effort after a series of decisions by Knopp left Floyd and other Republican voters feeling betrayed and abandoned by a member of their own party, he said.
Floyd said that he voted for Knopp, who ran unopposed in the last election cycle, but even then he had low expectations for his representative. Looking back, Floyd said he should have taken the fact that no Democratic or independent candidate ran against Knopp as a warning sign of what was to come.
At the beginning of the legislative session this year, Knopp was one of a number of Republicans who formed a majority coalition with the House Democrats to stand against Dunleavy’s agenda. This split in the Republican Party led to 30 days of the House being unable to assign leadership roles for committees in order to begin the session, and Knopp ended up as the deciding vote that made Rep. Bryce Edgmon, then D-Dillingham and now I-Dillingham, the Speaker of the House.
“The majority of people on the peninsula voted for this governor, and the first thing Gary did when he was sworn in was say, ‘I’m gonna stand against Dunleavy because someone has to,’” Floyd said. “It’s like, who are you representing again?”
At a town hall in Soldotna last February, Knopp explained to his constituents why he broke from the Republican Party and caucused with the Democrats in the House. At the time, Knopp argued that while he was in favor of cutting government spending, he didn’t agree to the steep cuts that the governor had in mind.
Floyd attended this town hall, and at the time he had not yet made up his mind whether or not to begin the recall process. At one point, Knopp said he used “sleight-of-hand” in order to resolve the conflict over House leadership, referring to when he unexpectedly nominated himself as Speaker in order to prevent Rep. Dave Talerico, R-Healy, from obtaining the position.
“I was so shocked by what Gary said,” Floyd said.
That moment was when Floyd decided to move forward with the recall effort. The petition cites three reasons for recalling Knopp: neglect of duties, incompetence and fitness for office.
Recalling an elected official in Alaska is a multistep process. Floyd and the other petitioners have to collect a number of signatures equal to 10% of those who voted in the last election cycle in order to file an application for a petition. In this case, that number is about 800, and Floyd said that their goal is 1,000 just to be safe.
After filing the application, the petition is then approved or rejected by the state, and if approved Floyd and others would then need to collect a number of signatures equal to 25% of those who voted in the last election. Floyd said that their goal for the total number of petition signatures is 3,000. The recall effort is still in the application stage, and Floyd said that they’ve collected about half of the signatures they need to file the petition.
If the application is accepted and the group collects the 3,000 signatures needed for the petition, a special election would be held within 60-90 days of the petition’s approval that would ask voters a yes-or-no question: Shall Rep. Gary Knopp be recalled from office?
In addition to the booth set up every Wednesday at Soldotna Creek Park, the petition is available to sign at Ammo Can Coffee, Artzy Junkin gift shop, Big Dog Custom 4×4 Auto Repair and Hispeed Gear computer repair. Anyone interested in volunteering or donating can visit recallgaryknopp.com for more information.