ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - A battle in the courts is inevitable after the director of the Division of Elections refused to certify a petition to recall Gov. Michael Dunleavy from office.
“I asked the legal team to do a deep dive into the Alaska constitution, discussions at the constitutional convention, the statutes, legislative history, and case law, including looking at authorities from other states, in order to understand what standards must be met in the recall context,” said Attorney General Kevin Clarkson in a prepared statement. “As a matter of law, recall cannot be premised upon disagreements with the elected official’s policies.”
According to the Department of Law, the recall effort did not meet the legal requirements necessary to certify the petition.
"The violation must be substantial in order to qualify," the attorney general wrote. "Moreover, applicants must show that the elected official was personally responsible."
Due to the attorney general's advice, the Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai denied certification of the application.
The governor responded to the announcement writing in a prepared statement that the attorney general's opinion "appears to be well reasoned."
"As I have always said, the allegations by the recall group are not legitimate reasons to overturn the outcome of the statewide election held barely a year ago," Dunleavy said in a prepared statement. "My administration will continue governing the state as we have since the election in a manner that is consistent with the fundamentals of good government. My priorities continue to be making Alaska safer for all Alaskans, growing the economy and enacting a solution to the state’s budget deficit."
In September, the Recall Dunleavy campaign submitted grounds for recalling Dunleavy, including a so-called unconstitutional delay the governor made in appointing a Palmer Superior Court judge and an alleged misuse of state funds for political advertising.
The advice from the Department of Law said that the delay was not unprecedented and that it was almost impossible to prove if the advertising was partisan.
Jahna Lindemuth, counsel for the recall campaign and attorney general under former Gov. Bill Walker, wrote that the campaign would now head to the courts to challenge the decision from the Division of Elections and Department of Law.
“Without question, the recall application submitted to the Division of Elections meets the standard under Alaska law. This rejection is without basis, and we will now turn to the courts for a remedy. We do so with confidence that we will receive fair treatment and we will prevail,” Lindemuth wrote. “Alaskans should expect a prompt resolution of this dispute. The recall will continue forward.”
The recall campaign kicked off in early August with events held across Alaska. Within weeks, thousands of signatures were collected from registered Alaska voters.
On Sept. 5, after a march through Midtown Anchorage, the Recall Dunleavy team submitted the recall petition with 49,006 signatures to the Division of Elections - well above the 28,001 signatures required for certification.
In late September, a campaign supporting the governor against the recall effort was launched. The campaign says the governor was elected with a wide margin to cut a billion-dollar budget deficit, it claims that “special interests” are now “howling mad” that cuts were made to a bloated budget.
President Donald Trump took to Twitter last Wednesday to support Dunleavy, saying that he is “being treated very unfairly by the Democrats.”
My friend Mike @GovDunleavy of the Great State of Alaska, is being treated very unfairly by the Democrats because he is doing an unbelievable job and fulfilling every one of his promises. Now they are trying to Recall him because his agenda is the Economy, Jobs, and protecting...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 30, 2019
The governor has also appeared before the national media, claiming the recall campaign has been a politically motivated effort to undo the results of the 2018 election.
If the courts overrule the Alaska attorney general and allow for the petition to be certified, another round of signature gathering would be required. The Recall Dunleavy campaign would need to collect 71,252 signatures from registered Alaska voters for a recall election to be called.
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