Alaska court allows recall group to begin next phase

Published: Feb. 14, 2020 at 1:03 PM AKST
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The Alaska Supreme Court agreed Friday to allow a group seeking to recall Gov. Mike Dunleavy to begin a second signature-gathering phase while it weighs an appeal in the case.

Last month, Superior Court Judge Eric Aarseth put a hold on his ruling that would have allowed the Recall Dunleavy group to advance to that next phase. In issuing the stay, Aarseth agreed with arguments from recall opposition group Stand Tall With Mike, which argued that voter confusion could arise if the signature-gathering began and the high court subsequently invalidated part of the recall application.

The order from the Supreme Court Friday said Aarseth “did not expressly consider the harm to Recall Dunleavy resulting from a stay.”

“The loss of several months of signature-gathering in this process is at least a ‘not inconsiderable’ injury,” the order states.

The order directs the state Division of Elections to prepare petition booklets “forthwith” for issuance to the recall group. The division previously stated that process would take a week, division Director Gail Fenumiai said by email Friday.

A briefing schedule on the appeal is pending.

Attorney General Kevin Clarkson, in a statement, said the division awaits notice on the briefing schedule and “is prepared to proceed according to the order” issued Friday. The Department of Law, which Clarkson oversees, is representing the division in this case.

The division in November rejected the recall application, a decision Fenumiai has said was based on a legal opinion from Clarkson. That opinion found the reasons listed for recall were “factually and legally deficient.” Clarkson is a Dunleavy appointee.

A message seeking comment was left for an attorney with Stand Tall With Mike.

Claire Pywell, who manages the Recall Dunleavy campaign, said the group was grateful for the decision. The group will need to gather 71,252 signatures in seeking to force a recall election.

Dunleavy, a Republican, took office in late 2018, and public anger over deep budget cuts he proposed during his first year helped fuel the recall effort. He has said the recall effort is political.

Grounds for recall in Alaska are lack of fitness, incompetence, neglect of duties or corruption.

Recall Dunleavy, among its claims, said the governor violated the law by not appointing a judge within a required time frame, misused state funds for partisan online ads and mailers, and improperly used his veto authority to “attack the judiciary.”

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