The gubernatorial recall campaign against Gov. Mike Dunleavy is intensifying this week as the governor takes to national conservative media outlets and recall proponents use this week’s Alaska Federation of Natives convention as a platform to spread their message.
The Alaska Division of Elections is more than two weeks away from a decision on the validity of the recall effort against the governor, but both the governor and those seeking to recall him have begun what amounts to an unofficial campaign season.
At last weekend’s Valley Republican Women Chili Cookoff, Dunleavy told attendees that he intends to travel to New York and Washington, D.C., “to do some of the shows that you will watch on some of the conservative channels and have a discussion about Alaska. They’re very interested in Alaska.”
Recall proponents, meanwhile, have focused on this week’s Alaska Federation of Natives convention in Fairbanks, where Cook Inlet Region Inc. has supported a booth intended to offer information and collect signature pledges for the next round of the recall. Airport Equipment Rentals, the state’s largest supplier of heavy equipment for the North Slope oil fields, is scheduled to host a Thursday night fundraiser headlined by the company’s owner, Republican Jerry Sadler.
Dunleavy also appeared at AFN on Thursday, delivering an address just after 9 a.m.
In his latest public appearances, the governor has offered comparisons between his administration and that of President Donald Trump. At the chili cookoff, about half of Dunleavy’s 30-minute speech was devoted to talking about Trump and the national political situation.
That mimicked a speech Dunleavy gave at the Republican Central Committee meeting in late September.
“Basically, we are in a fight,” Dunleavy told those at the chili cookoff, explaining that Alaska is on the cutting edge of conservative policymaking, particularly with recent actions against public-employee unions.
Referring to an independent counter-recall group, Dunleavy said, “I do have a website,” and told attendees, “I may call upon you to help out with this recall effort.”
Neither the chair of that group nor its treasurer returned phone calls seeking information for this story, and an email to the group’s listed address was returned as undeliverable.
Dunleavy’s AFN speech, interrupted by protests, was more conciliatory than his other addresses, focused exclusively on Alaska issues, and included a promise that he would listen to public feedback as he drafts the state’s next annual budget. After delivering the address, he departed Fairbanks for Homer.
In a 10-minute video interview with the Daily Caller this week, Dunleavy attempted to draw parallels between the recall effort and the impeachment investigation of Trump, saying that both are attempts to litigate and overturn election results.
Under Alaska law, a successful recall effort against the governor would place Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer in charge and would not force an open election. Any recall would be a straight up or down vote about whether Dunleavy should continue to serve.
In a separate interview with the Texas-based Joe Pags radio show, Dunleavy incorrectly said a successful recall would have Meyer serve as a placeholder until a special election. Alaska’s Constitution states that a successful recall would result in Meyer serving out the remainder of the term.
At AFN, recall campaign manager Claire Pywell said supporters will be gathering Alaskans’ pledges to sign the next petition needed for the recall. Supporters have already gathered sufficient signatures for the recall to be considered for certification by the Alaska Division of Elections, and a ruling on that certification is expected Nov. 4.
If the recall is certified, backers will need to gather 71,252 signatures for an election to actually take place. In the meantime, Pywell said the organization is collecting pledges and contact information from interested signers. The recall campaign will hold a party for the community with the greatest per-capita number of pledges, she said.
Legal action is also likely, recall supporters believe. If the recall is rejected by the Division of Elections, supporters have said they will appeal that decision. If it is accepted, they believe there is a strong likelihood of a challenge from another group against that decision, as happened in 1992 when the division certified a recall against then-Gov. Wally Hickel.
It is not known how much money both the recall and anti-recall groups have raised. Alaska’s campaign finance laws do not apply to recall campaigns until a campaign is certified, meaning both sides may raise unlimited amounts of money from any source, and there are no reporting requirements until the recall campaign formally begins.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported the location of this year’s AFN convention and also incorrectly reported that Kevin Meyer ran in the 2018 Republican primary for governor. He ran for lieutenant governor.