Judge sets oral arguments on Dunleavy recall campaign in January

A passerby signs the petition to recall Governor Mike Dunleavy in Aug. 2019.
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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - An Anchorage judge approved the state's timeline in setting the date for oral arguments that will decide the fate of the Recall Dunleavy petition at a hearing Thursday.

In setting the date of Jan. 10 for the hearing, Judge Eric Aarseth denied the Recall Dunleavy campaign a chance for an expedited schedule, which the campaign had argued was essential for getting the issue to voters before the budget discussions of the next legislative session.

In an email response, Margaret Paton-Walsh, the lawyer for the Division of Elections, which denied the Recall Dunleavy campaign the opportunity to appear on the ballot earlier this month, said that the state was satisfied with the new schedule and said it "will allow all parties to thoroughly brief the important issues raised by this litigation so that the court can make an informed decision."

Paton-Walsh wrote that the schedule, as proposed "is actually a relatively expedited schedule."

"Not that many cases move as quickly as this schedule provides for," she wrote.

Claire Pywell, spokesperson for the Recall Dunleavy campaign, played down the judge's decision to side with the state in scheduling.

"When you're talking about dealing with superior court and ultimately a decision that will get appealed to the Supreme Court, this is really fast," she said in a phone call with KTUU.

Today's hearing saw the entrance of a third party, Stand Tall with Mike, which was formed to fight the recall effort.

Pywell said that during Thursday's conference, Stand Tall with Mike had pushed for a much more extended timeline than what was granted. The Chair of Stand Tall with Mike, Lindsay Williams, said that the group currently didn't have a comment on today's decision.

In early November, the Department of Law recommended that the Recall Dunleavy petition be denied based on what it said where factual errors in the recall campaign's stated reasoning for initiating a recall. The Division of Elections followed that advice and denied the campaign, despite the fact that it had the required number of signatures.

Regardless of a decision after the hearing in January, both sides are expected to appeal the issue to the Alaska Supreme Court.

The Recall Dunleavy campaign has pointed to previous court decisions about recall campaigns that do not take into consideration the factuality of claims made by such petitioners, only that their claims allege instances of lack of fitness, incompetence, neglect of duties, or corruption. The stated reasoning for the recall campaign's petition addresses those four areas.

Paton-Walsh said that the Alaska Supreme Court has never addressed recall issues at a state level, and that "the statutes governing recall of municipal officials are different from those that govern here."

If the recall petition is ultimately approved, a new round of signature-gathering would begin before a statewide vote could take place.

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