JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - Prominent Alaska businessman and former legislator John Binkley is planning to form a group to oppose the effort to recall the governor from office, and another group is in its early stages as well.
Binkley says the group will likely be formally announced next week as Recall Dunleavy kicks off signature-gathering events across Alaska.
The difference between Binkley’s group and others opposed to the recall is that he says he’s focused on opposing the recall process itself rather than necessarily supporting the governor.
“When I read the charges that are listed in the initiative, I really don’t believe they rise to the level that would warrant an unprecedented step in our history,” Binkley said.
The governor’s divisive budget proposal in 2019 sent shockwaves across Alaska but his virtually flat budget proposal for the next fiscal year has been far less controversial.
“Gov. Dunleavy, I believe, has grown into his position,” Binkley said. “I believe it’s reflected in some of the changes that he’s made in his administration.”
Claire Pywell, the campaign manager for Recall Dunleavy, doesn't agree, asking, "What makes you think he's changed?"
Pywell says the second-round of signature-gathering will show that Recall Dunleavy has broad-based, grassroots support. She says that will contrast to the "establishment" figures who will sign up against the recall effort.
Binkley's anti-recall group, which currently doesn’t have a name, would be self-funded until other Alaskans officially come onboard. “To effectively communicate our message, we’ll need to raise significant sums of money,” he said.
Binkley is perhaps best known for his 2006 run to be Alaska’s governor. He lost in the Republican primary to former-Gov. Sarah Palin but came out ahead of then-incumbent Gov. Frank Murkowski.
The Binkley family is also closely connected to the Anchorage Daily News. Binkley’s four adult children own the paper with son Ryan working as the newspaper’s president and CEO.
Ryan Binkley also sits on ADN’s editorial board alongside Andrew Jensen, the editor of the Alaska Journal of Commerce, Andy Pennington, the publisher of the ADN, and Tom Hewitt, the newspaper’s opinion editor.
Hewitt said there is a strict firewall between news and the paper’s opinion pages but Ryan Binkley is involved in contributing to the newspaper’s weekly editorial.
“I’m staying neutral,” said Ryan Binkley about the campaign to recall the governor from office. He said that he would not be contributing money nor would he be campaigning for his father’s anti-recall group.
John Binkley wouldn't rule out buying advertising space on the ADN's pages against the recall, calling it a cost-effective way to communicate with Alaskans. "But, I'm biased in that regard," he joked.
Other groups have also formed to oppose the recall effort.
Stand Tall with Mike, an independent expenditure group, formed in November to oppose the signature-gathering for the petition and fund a battle in the courts.
Recently, the group pulled out of a Supreme Court case on the validity of the recall effort, claiming that it was a virtually foregone conclusion that a recall election would proceed.
All eyes will be on the Supreme Court to see how it rules in
If Recall Dunleavy collects 71,252 signatures from registered Alaska voters that are then certified by the lieutenant governor, a campaign phase of the recall effort would begin.
Stand Tall with Mike may not continue as the vehicle to oppose the recall and other groups such as Binkley’s would likely step forward.
Keep Dunleavy, formed earlier this week with Cynthia Henry as its chairperson, is also opposed to the recall. Henry is listed as the RNC’s National Committeewoman on the Alaska Republican Party’s website.
Donations are just beginning to be accepted at Keep Dunleavy’s website.
“It’s very, very new,” Henry said about the group. “It’s just starting to come together.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that John Binkley has three adult children.
Copyright 2020 KTUU. All rights reserved.