July 17, 2021
By Yereth Rosen
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) – Political foes of Alaska’s Republican governor have legally sufficient grounds to pursue their campaign to oust him from office through a recall election, the state’s highest court ruled on Friday.
The campaign to recall Governor Mike Dunleavy, who has about 17 months left in his term, is legal and may proceed, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled.
Whether Dunleavy’s detractors have made their case that his alleged shortcomings – that he is incompetent and corrupt – justify his removal from office is up to the voters, the court said.
“The people asked to sign petitions must decide whether the allegations are serious enough to warrant a recall election; each voter in the voting booth must decide whether the allegations are serious enough to warrant removal from office,” the opinion said.
Dunleavy, a former teacher, school administrator and legislator representing Wasilla, was elected governor in 2018, positioning himself as a political acolyte of then-U.S. President Donald Trump. His tenure has been rocky as Alaska struggled with financial difficulties and its dependence on dwindling oil revenues.
The governor’s foes argue that he deserves to be recalled because he is unfit and has abused his power. Among grounds cited by recall supporters, Duleavy is accused of illegally using his budget veto to punish judges for abortion-rights rulings and violating ethics laws by using state funds for partisan campaign purposes.
To qualify a gubernatorial recall for the Alaska ballot, campaigners must satisfy a two-phase test, gathering petition signatures totaling 10 percent of votes cast in the previous statewide election and, subsequently, gathering signatures totaling 25 percent of the votes cast. The Recall Dunleavy campaign reported it had 81 percent of the required second-phase signatures as of April.
In a statement Friday, Dunleavy blasted the court’s ruling, saying it will subject elected officials “to baseless, expensive, and distracting recall elections by their political opponents.”
Dunleavy faced problems other than the recall threat.
In a showdown with the legislature, he vetoed this year’s entire Alaska Permanent Fund dividend, a cherished oil-wealth payout to residents made annually since 1982.
This week CNBC ranked Alaska’s business climate dead last among all 50 U.S. states. CNBC cited Dunleavy’s actions specifically, saying he “relentlessly slashed” University of Alaska funding and made other poor decisions.
(Reporting by Yereth Rosen in Anchorage, Alaska; Editing by Steve Gorman and Kim Coghill)