Move to recall party-switching lawmaker to start Saturday, organizers say

Lisa Demer
Rep. Lindsey Holmes, D-Anchorage, in Juneau, AK Wednesday, January 24th, 2012.
Chris Miller

An effort to recall newly minted Republican Lindsey Holmes from her seat representing West Anchorage in the state House is kicking off publicly this weekend in Anchorage, according to one of the organizers.

Holmes was re-elected in November as a Democrat to a fourth House term. Then on Jan. 12, she announced she was switching parties.

While she says she's the same moderate she's always been, some voters in her district say her turnabout amounts to a betrayal and that she's not fit for office.

"It's really about honesty and integrity and going ahead with what you said you were going to do," said Colleen Murphy, an Anchorage physician who is one of the three designated recall leaders. Murphy, like most of the voters in House District 19, is not affiliated with a political party.

Friday evening, recall supporters are gathering at Murphy's West Anchorage home for training in how to properly gather signatures in support of a recall election. On Saturday morning, they plan to rally at Loussac Library, where the Anchorage legislative caucus is holding a public hearing from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Assembly chambers.

Murphy said they intend to begin gathering signatures during the caucus meeting "wherever it is legal."

Holmes said this week she is flying back to Anchorage from Juneau early Saturday and plans to be at the caucus meeting, though she may arrive late. She knows some of the recall backers may be there.

"They have every right to pursue whatever option they want. It's part of the process," Holmes said. "I'm down here in Juneau continuing to work hard every day and trying to move the state forward and do the best things for my district."

She said she's heard from dozens of constituents over the last five weeks -- "everything from thrilled to really disappointed to everything in between." She's trying to talk individually with each of them.

Recalling an elected official in Alaska is an involved process, as the group organizing against Holmes is discovering.

No Alaska state legislator has been recalled, according to Ballotpedia. An effort in 2011 to recall then-Rep. Kyle Johansen of Ketchikan failed after the Elections Division determined his actions didn't amount to negligence or incompetence, the grounds that group was acting under. He had given up a powerful leadership post in the House after another legislator, with whom he had a close relationship, didn't get a sought-after committee chairmanship.

Murphy said that people are upset Holmes held herself out as a Democrat in the November election only to switch to the GOP two months later. She then secured a coveted spot on the Finance Committee. Holmes said she changed her party registration and joined the Republican-led caucus before being granted the seat.

The group considers Holmes unfit for office because she's not who voters elected, Murphy said. For instance, she voted for a measure, opposed by most Democrats, that rolls back a voter initiative toughening standards on cruise ship wastewater discharge.

To move forward, they must collect signatures of 10 percent of the number of voters who cast ballots in November -- more than 800 voters. They can't file their application until Holmes has been in office 120 days.

If the state elections director determines the grounds are valid and the signatures are proper, organizers then must collect a second round of signatures amounting to a quarter of the district voters. Only then will the state schedule a recall election.

"This is not about the person -- it's about the position," Murphy said.

They've registered as an official campaign group and have planted yard signs promoting the recall at the intersection of Northern Lights Boulevard and Wisconsin Street. "Your Neighbors Want Their Vote Back," the signs say.

Holmes said she stands for the same things she always did.

Reach Lisa Demer at or 952-3965.

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