Peter Mooney made an extra stop on his visit to Sitka this week: he swung by the Unitarian Church on Marine Street to sign a petition for the recall of Governor Mike Dunleavy.
“I have been against every single thing that Dunleavy has done since he got into office,” Mooney said. “I think it was the worst thing that could have possibly happened to our state was for him to get into office.”
The recall event was one of several statewide. A statewide effort to recall Gov. Mike Dunleavy kicked off on Thursday, August 1st. Though the main event to gather signatures was held in Anchorage, satellite events happened across the state.
For Steven Courtright, it has been a long time coming. He’s a member of the Facebook group “Alaskans for Recalling Governor Mike Dunleavy,” which was created on February 13.
“People realized that he had dropped the budget that day and the vision he was realizing for the state didn’t line up with what most of us thought was appropriate for the vision for the state,” Courtright said.
Today the Facebook group has over 4,000 members. Courtright says they’re from all walks of life. This signature-gathering event was the group’s first big push. In Sitka’s Unitarian Church, the crowd was diverse, and had a range of opinions about Dunleavy. Elissa Kaminsky questions the motives driving the governor’s budget.
“What the governor is trying to support through a very ideological process, cutting basically ever social service, from early childhood to supports for elders is just atrocious,” she said.
Sue Taylor fears what those cuts to social services mean for the collective future of the state.
“Anytime you start cutting health and education for a population the quality of life goes down,” she said. “It doesn’t matter that we have a lot of people who are going to think they’re going to get rich from oil, the quality of life is going to go down.”
Budget cut frustrations are only the surface of the recall efforts. Alaskans for Recalling Mike Dunleavy wants to build a legal case against him. Organizers assembled a recall application that calls into question the legality of several of the governor’s actions, Courtright says.
“That’s not the fun stuff people care about,” he said. “A lot of people are out there saying we want to recall this guy just because we don’t like him, we don’t like his vision for the state. And we agree.” But Courtright wants to follow a legal process rooted in specific grounds that identify what Gov. Dunleavy has done wrong that can stand up in a court of law.
That legal process comes with a lot of paperwork and legwork. Statewide, the recall effort needs 28,501 signatures, Courtright said. That’s 10 percent of people that voted in the last election. That number gets the petition on the desk of the director of the Division of Elections. That body will have to verify each signature, a lengthy and meticulous process.
“The division of elections has an unenviable task,” Courtright said. “We want this to be above board. We want it done as well as possible. We want them to challenge us. If they challenge us and it survives the challenge it just provides more legitimacy to what we’re doing.”
If the Division verifies this initial round of signatures, Alaskans for Recalling Mike Dunleavy will head back to the streets with pens and clipboards — this time to collect 71,000 signatures. No previous effort to recall a governor has been successful. Courtright estimates the Sitka event gathered some 350 signatures at the launch event.
And for some, like Peter Mooney, in town from Port Alexander, the recall event felt like an opportunity. He’d like to see Alaskans treat the recall effort as the beginning of a movement.
“We should use this recall in a sense of really organizing ourselves as a community to fight against all this oppressive stuff,” Mooney said.
Courtright and other organizers will continue to gather signatures over the coming weeks. There is no legal deadline, but the state group hopes to collect all the necessary signatures as soon as possible.