A movement to recall Gov. Mike Dunleavy started on Thursday with rallies around the state, including one held at WKFL Park in Homer.
Co-sponsored by former Alaska senators Arliss Sturgulewski and Vic Fischer, and Usibelli Coal Board Chairman Joseph Usibelli, the Recall Dunleavy group seeks to remove the governor from office on several grounds, including his failure to appoint a judge in a timely manner, misuse of state funds, violating separation of powers, and incompetence, the group says.
“Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s sudden, severe, and sometimes illegal budget cuts have caused tremendous harm to Alaska and Alaskans,” Usibelli wrote in an editorial with his wife, Alaska State Laureate Peggy Shumaker. “…What we cannot afford is for Gov. Dunleavy to remain in office.”
In Homer, over the course two hours on Aug. 1 a steady stream of voters lined up to sign recall applications, with 300 people signing in the first hour alone. Protesters stood on the lawn by Pioneer Avenue waving signs that said “Yes to education; no to Dunleavy,” “Think responsibly about our future” and simply “Save our state.”
Rallies also were held in Anchorage, Bethel, Cordova, Fairbanks, Haines, Igiugig, Juneau, Ketchikan, Kodiak, Wasilla, Sitka, Unalaska, Valdez and Yakutat.
A Soldotna woman, Michele Vasquez, and her husband, Larry Simmons, signed an application while visiting Homer. Vasquez wore a T-shirt that read “Profane guttersnipes for justice,” a reference to a Republican Party term for people who protested at Wasilla Middle School during the special session earlier this month.
“I think he’s trying to decimate and devastate the state with his draconian budget cuts,” Vasquez said. “It’s insane. I’ve never seen anything like this, except Kansas.”
University of Alaska Fairbanks graduate Sara Betcher, who got a master’s degree in cross cultural studies and now lives in Homer where she works as a documentary filmmaker, cited Dunleavy’s cuts to educations as why she signed a recall application.
“I feel like his decisions have led to a political emergency with funding cuts to important agencies and programs,” she said. “… He’s put a lot of people in a mental state of crisis. I think with the recall that can give us some level of hope things can normalize.”
Meg Mitchell expressed a similar sentiment.
“I am in bliss,” she said of the recall effort. “… This is exciting.”
Homer writer and whale researcher Shelley Gill spoke at the rally, outlining the reasons for the recall as well as the process.
Under Alaska’s recall laws, in the first step, a minimum of 10% of the voters in the 2018 general election, or 28,501, have to sign an application for recall. If that’s approved by the Director of the Division of Elections, a petition to recall has to be signed by 71,252 people, or 25% of the voters in the last election. If that threshold is reached, a recall election is held, and if successful, Dunleavy will be replaced by Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer, who will serve out Dunleavy’s term.
“The beauty of this is Arliss, Vic and Joe,” Gill said of the group of recall sponsors.
Sturgulewski served as Republican senator and candidate for governor, while Vic Fischer was a Democratic senator and is the last surviving member of the Alaska Constitutional Convention.
Gill said she saw the recall effort as a counterpoint to Outside influence by people like the Koch brothers.
“That’s what’s striking about this,” Gill said. “We’re Alaskans.”
In a statement provided to the Juneau Empire, the governor’s office responded to the recall, writing, “Sadly, at all levels of government, we’ve seen the inability to have legitimate policy differences. Governor Dunleavy was elected as an agent of change, refusing to accept the status quo and keenly focused on addressing the challenges the many before him have been unwilling to tackle. While some will focus on political gamesmanship, Governor Dunleavy’s administration is focused on empowering Alaskans through the agenda he ran on, including addressing Alaska’s unsustainable budget, improving public safety, growing the economy, fighting for pro-business policies, and championing a full statutory PFD.”
The Homer Recall Dunleavy group will have an office in the Homer Real Estate building on Ocean Drive near the base of the Spit. Recall organizers also collected signatures at Salmonfest this weekend in Ninilchik. For information about the effort, visit https://recalldunleavy.org.