Breaking: Judge lets recall petition go to ballot, while appeal is certain - Must Read Alaska
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Wednesday, September 30, 2020
HomePoliticsBreaking: Judge lets recall petition go to ballot, while appeal is certain

Breaking: Judge lets recall petition go to ballot, while appeal is certain

It was apparent throughout today’s hearing that no matter what charges a group might lodge — true, false, frivolous, or ridiculous — the voters should have the right to decide on the merits of whether a lawmaker should be recalled in Alaska. It doesn’t matter if the ballot describes falsehoods in its allegations. It will be up to Gov. Mike Dunleavy to essentially run again in a special recall election, and tell people that he did not commit those offenses that are being alleged.

Judge Eric Aarseth issued his ruling today after the Recall Dunleavy Committee and the Attorney General presented their opposing views in Superior Court.

Whatever the allegation are, they are is taken as true, the judge opined. It’s up to the voters to decide “if they are true or not true.” His ruling will be appealed by the governor’s supporters, Stand Tall With Mike to the Alaska Supreme Court.

It was expected that the lower court judge would rule in favor of the Recall committee.

One allegation, however, was struck as false. It said the Legislature was precluded from performing its responsibilities. He said the Legislature could override a veto. But the judge said the other allegations could be interpreted as true.

This court is of the opinion it doesn’t have the discretion to create more stringent definitions” than previous courts, he said.

This story will be updated.

The judge allowed the petitioners to get their next petition from the Division of Elections by no later than Feb. 10, when they can start collecting the 78,000 signatures they will need to place the item on the ballot. The Stand Tall With Mike group said they would ask the judge to stay that decision, although Aarseth had already indicated how he would rule.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • What a waste of time and money for our broke State. When does he come up for reelection?

  • Thanks Suzanne

  • I am getting my recall documents ready to file for our next Democrat Governor. Documents claim the to-be-named Gov is being controlled by aliens and is unfit for office.

    Luckily, Division of Clections must certify it because as a matter of law, they cannot make a decision on the facts.

    I do wish there was a citizen recall process for Judges…Because Judge Aarseth’s secret use of state resources to purchase a 475-foot mega yacht to hold jump rope tournaments on (of which there is zero evidence) would also require a recall.

    • Scott, you are free to do that.

      Since you don’t know who the next Democrat Governor is though, how do you expect to make a legitimate case against them though?

      • It doesn’t really matter does it just make stuff up like the Dems do.

        • What’s been made up?

          • All of it, Jerry. There is no incompetence. Democrats just don’t like being left behind in the power ranking. It’s all about policy. The Republicans and Conservatives won. Less government, more accountability. Democrats hate that. Also, many Democrats don’t have anything else to live for right now. So gathering signatures for recall puts them to work. The same scenario with Trump. No high crimes or misdemeanors can be proven. But impeachment gives the Democrats something to do until they get beat again in the next election cycle. Fortunately, Americans are now understanding the truth about ugly Democrats. And finally, thank you, Suzanne, for educating us to the facts and the truth.

          • Marla, there is incompetence. Refusing to fulfill the duties as prescribed is incompetence and dereliction. You should pay more attention to the facts and less reliance on emotion.

          • Uh, thanks Jerry……I think. Are you lecturing me about the duties of the chief executive and what he can or cannot do according to wonky Democrat policy? Or, are you an apologist for the entire Democrat party which is attempting to further divide Alaskans and disrupt the policy decisions and privileges that flow from an election decided by the people? Your arrogance is superceded only by your own dishonesty and sophistry. ps. No more dumb answers, please, Jerry.

          • What were Dunleavy’s “prescribed duties”, Jerry? Be specific. No games.

          • Judie and Marla, He refused to fill vacancy in allotted time frame as prescribed by constitution.

            You can spare me the partisan hack rhetoric. Obviously your tribalism has got the best of you, but does it have to make you so insulting to your own intelligence?

          • That’s it? Failed to fill in vacancy in an allotted timeline? That justifies recall? Jerry, your IQ hovers somewhere below room temperature. Consider directing your insulting comments to a Democrat blog where thinking isn’t mandatory.

  • The fact remains, Dunleavy acted in a way that allows voters to recall. No amount of spin in this article can change that.

    I would like to see where the ballot would reflect falsehoods as this article hints at.

    [It doesn’t matter if the ballot describes falsehoods in its allegations. ]

    Hmmm, cheap shot is what that is. And completely uncalled for. The constitution doesn’t grant the administration to oversee its own recall. Just get on with it and quit stalling, and wasting more money. The signatures will tell us what we need to no. The administration facing recall is biased, and this article reflects that. Sad.

    • Jerry……you are a sad American. Go see your therapist and try to live a happy rest of your life.

    • Oh really and in what provide the facts talk is cheap and you just can’t face the fact this Governor received more votes than others in the past.

      • I see nothing of value from johnnie or Steven.

        Sour grapes is not an argument.

  • Same old, same old for the leftists. Judge shopping for a “bird of a feather” seems to be paying off for them. Now it will be appealed to another “judge”, maybe even to the leftist Alaska Supreme Court. Waste of time, money and reason/common sense. The election in November will serve as the ultimate “recall” opportunity. That’s not good enough for the left. Of course, Governor Dunleavy already trounced them once in the election booths. They know they can’t win without underhanded, backstabbing, wing-nut tactics. BS begets BS. Conservatives need to take heed. Voting is critical to Alaska staying a free, productive entity for all Alaskans. Not just leftists and their socialist agenda. They don’t have a viable candidate or platform for Alaska to succeed. All they have is the “vision” of the left. That would be socialism, with the “public” employee sector at the top of the Alaskan financial and political “food chain” and every cent Alaska has available as the incentive for the leftist goals. Recall, my rear end.

  • As an individual who doesn’t support the recall of Governor Dunleavy, I did take the time to read and then re-read both the Alaska Constitution provisions and the statutes in regard to recalling the officials we elect. Having read these constitutional and statutory provisions, it came as no surprise that the trial court judge in this case determined recall is a political process and one that is governed primarily by procedural restrictions, e.g., the Governor cannot be recalled in the first 180 days or the last 180 days of their administration and the recall must adhere to a certain form and contain certain information set out in the statutory law.

    It is true the folks behind the recall “don’t like” Governor Dunleavy, as Art Chance points out in his column. The surely do not, as is their right under the Alaska Constitution and our statutory laws. Under those laws they can petition to recall Governor Dunleavy. They garnered the necessary signatures according to law in the first round of the process set out in statute. The Attorney General’s Office then issued a ham handed opinion that muttered on about insufficient grounds for recalling the governor, a position that probably brought cheer to the Governor but pretty much was a naked attempt to jam substantive criteria into the existing statute that wasn’t justified. This effort by the Attorney General’s office to insulate the Governor from the obvious statutory regime was relied on by the Division of Elections which is what caused the legal dispute. Nobody should blame the Division Director of Elections for relying on the opinion cooked up by the Attorney General’s Office. Having denied the citizens their constitutional and statutory rights to get the recall booklets specified in statute, the Attorney General set up the lawsuit that has resulted in yet another loss.

    At this point, the Attorney General will probably appeal the case to the Alaska Supreme Court. It is more likely than not that the Supreme Court will affirm the decision by the trial court and allow the citizens of Alaska to try and gather the necessary signatures to put the recall on the ballot. If the Alaska Supreme Court rules to affirm the trial court, it will not be because they are all a bunch of liberal weenies, anymore than the trial judge was some flaming liberal. The trial judge was appointed by Frank H. Murkowski and the likelihood that Frank the Bank selected a liberal judge is remote. The trial judge ruled that the citizens recall petition can go forward based on the Alaska Constitution and the statutes, not because of some political agenda. Think that’s wrong? Read our constitution and the statutes and see for yourself. The statutory provisions are almost purely procedural and the procedural bars are quite high. The statutes don’t give the judiciary the opportunity to conduct a trial on the merits of the allegations made against the elected official. If the petition sets out a vague claim of incompetence or malfeasance in a couple hundred words, or less, then the matter goes to the public after sufficient signatures are gathered and then the citizens get to decide whether to recall the person.

    Governor Dunleavy wound up in the fix he is in based on a series of miscalculations an odd actions that were largely the result of listening to and taking counsel from Tuckerman Babcock. Babcock is the kind of guy who thinks using gasoline as a fire starter is just ducky and it is no wonder to anyone who has paid the slightest attention to his antics over the decades that someone was going to be torched with him as the Chief of Staff. Actually, a lot of people did get torched, including Mike Dunleavy, which was entirely predictable and presumably one of the major reasons Babcock was finally put out to pasture.

    Governor Dunleavy was not wrong to call for cuts in state spending. And the Governor did run a decent campaign that resonated with a majority of the Alaskan electorate. He won fair and square but his decision to put Babcock at the center of his administration and appointment of a fair number of hacks and pals in positions without regard to delivery of essential public services set him on the recall path.
    I said previously in this posting that I do not support recalling Mike Dunleavy.. I don’t for all the obvious reasons, but by his acts and omissions, he has put himself in a position where a fair number of citizens are out to get him. They are using lawful procedures mandated by the Alaska Constitution and existing statutory law. In the end, the citizens are entitled to use these procedures to try and recall him as a matter right.

    The right to recall exists so we can recall officials who act against the wishes of the voters. If the proponents of the recall get the necessary signatures, as they are likely to do, the issue of whether or not Mike Dunleavy should be recalled will be decided by the voters after a campaign, which is right and proper. Public officials elected to manage our government are responsible to the citizens. The recall process ensures accountability and will play out as it will in the next year, or so.

    In the meantime, Governor Dunleavy could do worse than paying attention to the day-to-day operations of our state government and get on with reducing waste, increasing efficiency and building a sustainable and balanced budget instead of fooling around back in the District of Columbia and hobnobbing with ideological hacks back east.

    • Sort of telling that Walker’s AG stuffed Clarkson’s reasoning where the sun don’t shine. Ham handed indeed.

      • Has nothing to do with who argued the case or even prepared the briefing. A second year law student could have argued the case for the petitioners and won the case.

        • Hindsight is always 2020, Joe. Lindemuth pointing out where Clarkson’s reasoning was faulty points out that said purpose was to just delay the recall attempt, unless you are thinking this administration thought they could win. And, of course, any appeal to SC is just a further delay IMO.

          • No hindsight on my part. I predicted SOA would lose this before hearing in superior court. Way before.

    • Thanks for the thoughtful legal analysis, very helpful. I agree he probably paid too close attention to “ideological hacks,” however, the average voter has to look at policy actions, motives are impossible to judge at a distance.

      If the recall case is clearly constitutional and a second year law student could have won this case, why do you think the Governor’s office is trying to block the recall vote? Is it a delay tactic – providing time to make amends (e.g. reducing cuts to low income seniors and the University) hoping to persuade voters to reconsider?

      Perhaps Ben Stevens has introduced some helpful perspective to the Governor’s office. If TB and Donna were really behind many of the foolish, tone-deaf decisions, it’s evidence to me Dunleavy isn’t a good leader and not willing to think for himself; he should have been content to support another conservative in the Governor’s office. There are many ambitious people out there who want to be in charge – and may spout conservative ideas – but not everyone is competent to be an effective leader.

      • Of course the denial and need for litigation is to delay what is almost certainly the inevitable — that being the issuance of the second round of petition books. Whether the recall campaign will actually get enough second round signatures is an open question, as is whether sufficient votes will be cast to actually recall the Governor.

        Ben Stevens is doing a much better job serving the Governor as the Chief of Staff compared to Babcock.

        I do think the blame many have heaped on Donna Arduin was misplaced to a considerable degree. Arduin was tasked with brutally hard job. She was told to come up with $1.6B in proposed cuts. Donna Arduin was one of the few appointed officials in the Dunleavy administration who actually did the job to which she was assigned. She came up with the level of cuts sought by the Governor and provided decent justification for the cuts. That doesn’t mean the cuts that she and the OMB were politically acceptable or even made sense in the Alaska in all cases. The point is that Arduin did what was asked of her by the Governor who then let Babcock run wild with cuts and chopping. Babcock was supposed to be the Governor’s go to guy in terms of politics and policy. He failed. And he failed spectacularly, which in no small part is why Governor Dunleavy is subject to a recall.
        It was fascinating watching a bunch of the boys tag Arduin with getting the Governor in hot water with the legislature and the public. Arduin got pitched out based on dubious reasoning while a bunch of feather merchants who add little or no value and basically avoid making hard decisions or lack the skills necessary to help Governor Dunleavy implement his administration are still on the payroll. But we’ve been running the State of Alaska like some low rent club house gang for decades and that probably will continue, even as we run out of oil money.

    • Joe, excuse me…….but: didn’t Dunleavy attempt to deliver on all of his campaign promises that he gave to the people? Isn’t that what the majority elected him to do? Where’s the incompetence in that? I believe that’s why Dunleavy was elected. The coward, Bill Walker, could no longer face the people.

  • It is a travesty of justice that Superior Court Justice Aarseth could arrive at legal conclusion where accusations “not affirmed facts” would be the basis for attempting to overturn an election giving an opposing / complaining party two bites at the apple in attempting to remove a duly elected Governor void of “facts”. “Judge” Aarseth made a personal Political statement thereby guaranteeing that a higher Court will render a “real” legal opinion that would respect “facts” not political bias on a grand scale. Sorry judge Aarseth, facts are stubborn things. A legal decision rendered in political bias only weaken’s our long held standards /
    system of juris prudence. Your political convictions have clouded your legal judgment and has shed the bright light as to fairness within Alaska’s legal system. We expect and deserve better than what you have laid at the feet of Lady Justice this day.

  • Ross: Get a grip. And try to make your grip on reality, not some political fantasy disconnected from reason and fact. Here’s the deal — you get to decide what facts matter, if any when it comes to the recall campaign and vote. The citizens decide what facts are relevant if the petitioners garner enough signatures in the second round of the process and wind up putting the recall issue on the ballot for a public vote.
    That means you and every other citizen entitled to vote get to weigh the facts you think are relevant and vote accordingly. Or you can even vote to retain the governor based on no facts. You and the other citizens decide, not some person wearing a black robe who wasn’t elected to office.
    That’s how the process is set out and all the judge did in this case was follow the law. There was no legal requirement that some black robe enter judgment on whether or not Governor Dunleavy is a good guy, properly elected, should continue in office or otherwise pass political judgment on how he has done in the 13 months since he took office. The judge did strike one of the four grounds alleging Governor Dunleavy was incompetent or otherwise unfit for office and should be recalled on technical grounds that make sense to me. The judge found the other three alleged grounds were consistent with the statutory provisions in Alaska law and precedent so he green lighted the second round of petitioning. If that petition winds up with the large number of valid signatures then there will be a campaign before the citizens get to decide whether Governor Dunleavy should be recalled. Judge Aarseth’s decision had zero to do with his personal political position or values and everything to do with upholding the Alaska Constitution and statutory law as written. What more can you ask of a judge than that?

    • Another Leftist judge trying to appease his base. Yes, it’s just another judge playing courtroom politics.

  • Joe, a second year high school student could have argued the case. This judge probably signed the recall petition.

    • Mark the day; I’ll chime in with Geldof a bit, and dissent in part. Remarkably, for a State case it was pretty well argued on both sides and pretty well judged. That said, it was a waste of time, and an appeal to the AKSC will be an even bigger waste of time; the petition is going forward.

      I think the allegations are utter leftist bullshit. Almost all leftist group, unions, NGOs, all the other parasites, are really just subjectivist fallacies, and none of the complainants have a clue what a subjectivist fallacy is.

      That said, Alaska law on recall is groovy lefty stuff, so “I don’t like it,” is a compelling logical and legal argument. I don’t think the judge erred because our law allows this sort of craziness.

      If you don’t like who is on the bench, change the selection process. If you don’t like the law, change the Constitution or do an initiative to change the law; don’t just impotently bitch.

      • I’m genuinely curious what makes this Governor a right winger in your opinion Mr. Chance. I’ve strained to detect any evidence. Is it the cronyism or the libertarianism? Is it importing “refugees”? Or maybe promoting “diversity is our strength” talking points from the previous administration? Conservatism, always losing gracelessly.

  • Judge is liberal a– controlled by outside interests as it is apparently obvious by the remarks of most of the bias posts. Dunleavy was elected because conservatives are tired of the state corruption. These liberal — are the very reason the state is broke, just like Anchorage!!!

    • Nav: Tell me you don’t use gasoline as a fire starter. The so-called conservatives in Alaska have had a fair bit to do with spending public money like drunken sailors hitting port after a long voyage as the folks you identify as liberals. The overspending is an Alaskan problem since we started wallowing in oil revenue in the 1980’s. Think that’s wrong? Reflect on the whopper capital budget that Sean Parnell marshalled through the legislature in 2012, or thereabouts. Almost all of our pols talk about cutting or reducing government through efficiencies, etc., etc. It’s mostly just blah, blah, blah. I admire Governor Dunleavy for trying to cut. And there were some cuts. But Governor Dunleavy actually increased the spending for his office last year, a remarkably silly thing to do given his stated commitment to chopping the size, scope and scale of spending.
      The problem with state spending on government isn’t just a “liberal” issue. It’s a systemic issue anymore. Same as we have with Congress. Politicians love spending money and they do without regard to actual revenue or the long-term health of the economy.

    • Nav, when was Alaska governed by liberals?

  • One of the (few) happy outcomes of the lawfare the left is conducting here in Alaska is a real lesson in the corruption of the judiciary.

    A judge whose budget Dunleavy cut rules in support of his recall. What a surprise. Not.

    I don’t think the political left is going to enjoy playing under their new rules. But I will. Cheers –

  • Jr. Read Art Chance’s analysis, above, and stop whining and get real. At some point you need to stop wandering around in the forest of your feelings and deal with reality, one that includes the Alaska Constitution as written and the statutory provisions in Alaska law, as written, not as you wish them to be. I know the modern political era in Alaska is rank with magical thinking on the part of so-called liberals and so-called conservatives alike but in the end, the judges do the best they can with the material at hand. In this case, the judge applied the law as written, not as advocates wished it to be on behalf of Governor Dunleavy. That doesn’t make the judge a partisan just because you don’t want the Governor to face a recall campaign. Hey, I am not a fan of the recall either but in the end, the law is the law and the position articulated by the Attorney General was basically just designed to delay the inevitable.
    Dunleavy is getting shredded because a significant number Alaskans (almost all of whom didn’t vote for him in 2018), don’t like him. Art Chance is correct about that phenomenon. But the material these disgruntled citizens are using to jack up the Governor flow directly from the mendacious decisions foisted off on the Governor by Tuckerman Babcock and the unbelievably ineffective communications staff the Governor put in place when he took office. I personally don’t think Governor Dunleavy’s reliance on Babcock and the failings of his communication staff warrant recall. But sensible observers of our state government pretty much are in agreement that the governor’s decision to listen to a Chief of Staff without sufficient administrative skills and put in place a communications hack like M.A. Pruitt were a significant part of why Governor Dunleavy wound up in Chateau Bow-Wow with a majority of the individuals serving in the Alaska Legislature and a large swath of the public.
    Governor Dunleavy belatedly ditched Tuckerman Babcock and there are signs that his administration will no longer conduct public affairs according to some extreme partisan agenda that includes paybacks, retribution and revenge as was common when Tuckerman Babcock was around. Whether Governor Dunleavy can regain the goodwill he earned when elected is anyone’s guess at this point but I for one think he deserves a chance at redemption.

  • Agrimarc: Perhaps it is time to consult with your health care provider and see if your meds need to be re-calibrated. There isn’t a shred of corruption exhibited by the judiciary in this case. The charge of corruption is all in your mind. Think not? Where is your evidence of corruption? That you didn’t like the outcome is obvious but that doesn’t support your charge that corruption was involved.

    • Evidence of corruption? Easy. We saw it when the AK Supremes rewrote the statutory rules for the PFD, turning it into just another budget item. We saw it last week when this judge tossed out half a century of recall language and precedent. Corrupt? You betcha.

      Now for the fun part, here’s how those of us on the right can play this game in the future.

      1. Target any democrat you don’t like at any level – Assembly, legislature, judge.
      2. Write a recall petition. Now that the judiciary has approved the new language, all you will have to do is change the names in the document.
      3. File the recall and start gathering signatures in targeted districts. For the legislature Poison Ivy or Ortiz would be nice initial targets. The CHARR guys could and probably should do the same thing for Assembly members voting for yet another alcohol tax.
      4. Hold the special election.

      Gathering signatures are cheap. Running a retention campaign is expensive. Do enough of these, and the democrats, greens and their union backers will be shortly out of money. Like I said, this will be fun.

      I reiterate my previous: You guys aren’t going to like playing under your new rules, but I will. Cheers –

      • Agimarc, you do know Bill Walker was a Republican, right? So you say the courts are corrupt. How?

        The judge didn’t toss out recall language and precedent. The judge allowed the recall the proceed because all constitutional requirements have been met.
        1) That is still the same. You can petition for recall. You need signatures as required by constitution.
        2) What new language approved changed the recall petition?
        3) Nothing changed.
        4) Again, nothing changed.

        You can petition for recall and get signatures. Same old same old. Quit your bellyaching.

      • AGGYMARK, or whatever your name is: The Alaska Supreme Court didn’t rewrite the statutory PFD formula when they ruled against Bill Wielechowski. The Alaska Supreme Court determined that the existing constitutional PF provision in Article IX did not authorize the legislature to enact a statutory provision that could dedicate the PFD via statutory law.
        Read the opinion if you don’t believe me.
        What that interpretation did, in effect, was require the funding for the PFD to compete with every other appropriation on an annual basis. That isn’t corruption by any stretch of the term.
        The solution to that ruling, which a bunch of us are trying to get through the legislature is to adopt a resolution putting the PFD formula that exists in statute or some workable formula that guarantees payment of the PFD to the citizens of our state in the Alaska Constitution. What are you doing to help with the effort or are you just another discontented whiner who yaps and yips about our civic state of affairs?
        And the judge in the recall case last week did not toss out a half of century of legal precedent by allowing the citizens the right to petition for the recall of Governor Dunleavy. The right to recall has been in the Alaska Constitution since the beginning or our state and the statutes laying out the recall procedures have been in statute for decades. The judge in the recall case this week simply followed the law, as written, not according to the goofball wishes of Margaret Patton-Walsh who was sent up by the Attorney General to argue against the constitutional and statutory provisions as written.

        And good luck with having fun recalling your enemies. First, it is hard work to conduct recalls, initiatives or referendums. It requires patience, diligence, attention to detail and some funding. My guess is you have none of the skills necessary to actually get off your lounge chair and do the hard work necessary to even start a recall, which is why you spelled out what other folks should do in a passive, whiny voice.

        Instead of carping and whining about all of your perceived enemies, get out and shovel some snow or something productive. It would be more productive than your spew about having fun and the supposed creation of new rules.

  • Maybe I’ve not been paying attention but has this administration filed their appeal to SC yet in this matter? Or has the AG resigned in shame over this one?

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