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It won’t be easy to recall Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy, but anything can happen in Alaska politics — and it has.
Alaskans take on challenges, and, often, they meet them.
Alaska’s own Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who is a lifelong Alaskan born in Ketchikan, had her own political challenge in 2010. She lost to a primary election challenger in a bid to continue to be the Republican standard bearer. She launched a write-in campaign, won the general election, and became the first U.S. senator to win a write-in since 1954 when South Carolina Democrat Strom Thurmond did it.
Murkowski’s spirit is the same as many Alaskans. When a challenge presents, she meets it. That’s the spirit of the Alaskans bent on recalling Dunleavy, too.
Not more than 20 states allow gubernatorial recalls. Their success is mixed.
Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker survived a recall attempt in 2012, while Democratic California Gov. Gray Davis lost in a special election for recall in 2003.
Before then, the only gubernatorial recall involved North Dakota’s Lynn Frazier in 1921 during an economic depression. He had won the office with 79% of the vote, but when North Dakotans’ suffered economically, their illustrious leader experienced a defeat of his own. After leaving the governor’s mansion, he went on to capture a U.S. Senate seat the next year.
A Michigan recall effort, involving Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, occurred about the same time as the Walker recall attempt, but it never made it to a special election.
Dunleavy has been at the center of economic controversy since he took the oath of office.
He inherited a $1.6 billion budget deficit; he hired an Outsider as his budget director, and he presented the Legislature with an operating budget to eliminate much of the Alaska Marine Highway System, among other items. After the Legislature built its budget and restored some of the funding Dunleavy had axed, the governor responded with more than $400 million in vetoes.
Whether the recall attempt succeeds depends largely in the language in the application. The recallers are alleging incompetence, lack of fitness and neglect of duties. The only other allowed reason would be corruption, which isn’t included by the recall sponsors, one of whom is Vic Fischer, the sole surviving member of the Alaska constitutional convention.
It will take some work to get the required 28,501 signatures — 10 percent of the voters in the last state election — in order to submit the application to the state Division of Elections for a ruling as to whether it can proceed. But it isn’t impossible. Democrats alone could provide those, and they aren’t the only ones signing.
On the first day of official signature-gathering, more than 10,000 signatures were received in three communities alone.
That number indicates the application will make it to the Division of Elections. Then, if the director of the Division of Elections approves the application, another round of signature-gathering would be required for the state to call an election with the recall question to be answered by voters. This time 71,252 signatures of registered Alaskan voters — or 25% — would be required.
Again, the signatures would be forthcoming, given the number of Democrats and dissatisfaction among some Republicans and many who are politically unaffiliated.
This means the critical juncture is the Division of Elections, followed, then, of course, by the voters who show up at the polls if a special election to consider recall is conducted.
It’s unfortunate that Alaska is being distracted with a recall effort. Most wise Alaskans recognize the need to eliminate the state’s deficit spending as its savings accounts deplete. But it’s the idea of how it’s being done. The means is the problem. The end is reality.
Neither is easy. Nor is a recall attempt. Doable, yes. Easy, no.