The short-sighted thinking of the recall effort

The election of Mike Dunleavy last November has ushered in an era of craziness in Alaska politics that has not been seen since the days of former Governor Sarah Palin. Actually, things are probably way looser under Governor Dunleavy then they ever were under Palin.

Dunleavy got off to a rough start when he declared that all exempt State employees would have to submit a de facto loyalty pledge. Then things really went off the rails when he unveiled his budget in February. His proposed cuts of $1.6 billion and insistence on a $3,000 dividend – plus the payback of the previously vetoed dividends – forced Alaskans, and the Legislature, to face a stark choice: big cuts or a big PFD. The Legislature pushed back hard on Dunleavy’s budget and ended up with a budget with far fewer cuts than he had proposed. Keep in mind, this budget is billions less than budgets passed in previous years.

Determined to get his cuts, Dunleavy vetoed hundreds of millions of dollars from the budget. When the Legislature had the opportunity to override his vetoes during a special session, a third of the Legislature met in Wasilla while the rest remained in Juneau. The Legislature lacked the votes to override any of the vetoes. Later, when they were all back in Juneau, they were able to pass bills restoring some of the cuts as well as fund the capital budget.

Dunleavy’s approach to the budget has created both anger and fear for many Alaskans. There is now an organized recall effort against him. The group was able to collect over 49,000 signatures in just over a month. They were only required to collect just over 28,000 to submit their recall petition. There is no doubt the group has organization and momentum.

Article 11, Section 8 of the Alaska Constitution states:

All elected public officials in the State, except judicial officers, are subject to recall by the voters of the State or political subdivision from which elected. Procedures and grounds for recall shall be prescribed by the legislature.

In Alaska, the grounds for recall are (1) lack of fitness, (2) incompetence, (3) neglect of duties, or (4) corruption.

The group’s stated grounds for recall are:

  1. Governor Dunleavy violated Alaska law by refusing to appoint a judge to the Palmer Superior Court within 45 days of receiving nominations.
  2. Governor Dunleavy violated Alaska Law and the Constitution, and misused state funds by unlawfully and without proper disclosure, authorizing and allowing the use of state funds for partisan purposes to purchase electronic advertisements and direct mailers making partisan statements about political opponents and supporters.
  3. Governor Dunleavy violated separation-of-powers by improperly using the line-item veto to: (a) attack the judiciary and the rule of law; and (b) preclude the legislature from upholding its constitutional Health, Education and Welfare responsibilities.
  4. Governor Dunleavy acted incompetently when he mistakenly vetoed approximately $18 million more than he told the legislature in official communications he intended to strike. Uncorrected, the error would cause the state to lose over $40 million in additional federal Medicaid funds.

Let’s be honest, these aren’t the real reasons for the recall. These are convenient excuses. Every administration makes mistakes and missteps, especially in its early months, and if this is the standard for a recall then every governor could face one. The real reason for the recall is that people are furious about the budget cuts. I don’t blame them. Personally, I think Dunleavy’s approach to deal with the deficit went too far, too fast. But you can’t override the votes cast in a democratic election and recall someone because you don’t like their policies. So how did we get here?

Candidate Dunleavy promised Alaskans mega PFD checks. Not just a full $3,000 PFD this year, but also back pay on the previous PFDs that were reduced. This totaled $6,700! That sounded real good to Alaskans, who already pay no statewide income or sales taxes. How did Alaskans think Dunleavy was going to make that happen? The truth is most people didn’t think about it. They just wanted that big check.

Many people are also motivated by anger with how the election played out. Mark Begich entered the race late, splitting progressive and moderate voters between Democrat Mark Begich and Independent Bill Walker. With the electoral math overwhelmingly on his side, Dunleavy was able to skip debates with little consequence and dodge detailed policy questions. Begich and Walker spent much of the campaign locked in a bitter battle for second place. By the time Walker dropped out just weeks before the election, the die had been cast.

Politics is quickly becoming a win at any cost game. The recall effort has significant support. But whether or not the recall petition is certified, the matter will inevitably be challenged in court. A protracted court battle will only deepen the current political divisions in our state. Regardless of the outcome, the wounds will take many years to heal.

Governor Dunleavy has made a lot of mistakes. But he was democratically elected by Alaska voters in a free and fair election. A $6,700 check sounded great and few voters really stopped and asked how that was possible. When Alaska voters elected Dunleavy we got exactly what we deserved.

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4 years ago

I believe that incompetence is a reason AND is he that.

4 years ago

First off, Walker initially agreed to the primary and then reneged; facts ARE important 🙂 Secondly, based upon the lengthy history of the interpretations of the statutes in question, there is no legal basis to refuse to issue the petition. And would an Administration that tried to punish the Court System by cutting its budget going to ask that same Cort System to rule in its favor (not to say that our Courts would behave so inappropriately, but looking at the matter from the perspective of an Administration that projects its own malfeasance). Indeed, refusing to issue the petition would… Read more »

4 years ago

Where do I sign!?

Henry Cole
4 years ago

This is shameful crap, Jeff.

4 years ago

Basically you can dislike his shtick, but you can’t deny it was effective. And we made our bed and so we should lie in it? I’m not even sure that argument is logical.

I typically like your witty writing style, but you’re no Dermot Cole. But perhaps it was something you just needed to get off your chest? Next!

Lynn Willis
4 years ago

Jeff, The issues are deception of the people and incompetence in office. You don’t deserve a “mulligan” for campaign lies and you don’t deserve a “break in” period to figure out how to be a Governor. Recall , like impeachment, is a political process and there certainly are (and should be) political consequences for Dunleavy lying to Alaskans about not intending to cut the budget as he did and also lying about not paying that huge PFD amount as single payment of $6,700. I understand Begich brought us Mike Dunleavy; however, how would “Big Mike” have done if he had… Read more »

MIke Q
4 years ago

Awesome article, Jeff. Your close to talking me in to sending you money! Alas, Suzanne is considerable prettier than you!

Elstun Lauesen
4 years ago

This is absurd. First, your title, “…Short-sighted…”. The damage that Mike Dunleavy is doing is long-term. Indeed YOU are shortsighted for dismissing the damage of this administration as only an ersatz budget gripe. Clearly you lack depth in your understanding of the consequences of the actions of The Dunleavy administration. His attempts to liquidate endowments will affect the state for decades. His disrespect for Article X relations with local governments by seizing their local revenues for state spending will result in decades of local revenue challenges to local governments. His disregard for the Constitution is no trivial matter as you… Read more »

Michael E Welsh
4 years ago

The Koch Bros. set up shop in Anchorage shortly after the 2016 election and went looking for a sociopath who would do what they told him to do in exchange for becoming Governor of Alaska. They came up with Mike Dunleavy whose campaign bullshit a sufficient number of Alaskans bought into which gained him a slender election victory. Dunleavy promptly hired one of the Koch’s most trusted austerity enforcers, the odious Donna Arduin, to gut the Alaska budget paying particular attention to the University of Alaska in Fairbanks, a frontline climate research institution and the backbone of the Alaska Democratic… Read more »

robert Brean
4 years ago

He and his cronies, Ben, Kevin, and Sean, are all perpetrators of SB 21 the big oil long con on Alaskans. They and the republican controlled majority at the time promoted and passed SB 21 to be placed on the ballot then big oil financed the campaign to pass the measure. They gave between $1.5-$2.0 billion dollars a year back to big oil,…..then screamed “budget crisis” from the tops of the mountains. All self created by the republican controlled majority which included Dunlevey and half of his upper management, so…he knew exactly what he was doing. Get elected even if… Read more »

4 years ago

This article is puzzling, ghost written? It is the season!

4 years ago

Jeff, you are hilarious. You just want to keep him in there so you have more drama and bs to report about. Not a good reason to have Alaska at risk for the next three years. That would be short-sighted.

Fart Chance
4 years ago

Wow, angling for a job with the administration much, Jeff?
It cracks me up you keep asking for donations. To do what exactly? Produce 3 posts a week, 2 of which are gossip and then the other is this garbage?