Due Monday: Attorney General Kevin Clarkson's decision on Dunleavy recall - Must Read Alaska
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Friday, November 22, 2019
HomePoliticsDue Monday: Attorney General Kevin Clarkson’s decision on Dunleavy recall

Due Monday: Attorney General Kevin Clarkson’s decision on Dunleavy recall

Alaska Attorney General Kevin Clarkson has until Monday to announce his decision on whether the recall petition to remove Gov. Michael Dunleavy can move ahead to the second phase of signature gathering.

His decision will be to say whether the group wishing to recall the governor has adequate grounds: Misconduct, incompetence, or failure to perform duties prescribed by law.

The Recall Dunleavy group says the governor failed to perform his duties when he didn’t appoint a judge to the Palmer District Court seat within the 45 days mandated by law. Dunleavy was engaged in making the appointment, and was negotiating with the Alaska Judicial Council over their nominees. He appointed that post late, but not before it was vacated by the retiring judge.

The group also says that the Dunleavy Administration made an error in a budget decision. That error was corrected quickly, but the group says it is evidence of incompetence.

Finally, the Recall Dunleavy group says the Governor’s Office used State resources to push partisan ads on Facebook. Those ads were actually targeted at legislators who were opposing the governor’s budget policies, but whether they were partisan in nature will be up to the courts to decide.

All of these are fig leaf reasons, critics say, to mask the real discontent with the governor for cutting the budget. In its own words on its Recall Dunleavy website, the group admits as much:

“His brief time as governor has brought us an atmosphere of fear and distress, as people worry about whether they will be able to care for special-needs children or whether they will lose their jobs, their homes, and their ability to live in Alaska.

“We cannot allow a governor who doesn’t understand the concept of the separation of powers to remain in power.  He cannot be allowed to attack the judiciary because courts make decisions he doesn’t like. He cannot be allowed to keep the legislature from upholding its constitutional responsibilities to fund programs that provide for the health, education, and well-being of Alaska’s people.”

In other words, it is really about things like cutting the court’s funding and shifting that money over to pay for court-ordered abortions.

This reason, along with the actual stated reason in the recall petition itself concerning a delay in appointing a judge, put the judges in an awkward position. They do, in fact, have a dog in the fight because the governor has made decisions about their budget — decisions that Alaska Supreme Court Justice Joel Bolger has already said on the record were adverse to the courts, and he asked the Legislature to reverse the governor’s decisions.

History gives no particular hint about how the judges would rule.

A recall campaign against a sitting governor in Alaska last occurred in 1992, when a group formed to recall Gov. Wally Hickel. The Department of Law and Director of the Division of Elections certified the application on Aug. 26, 1992, against the advice of outside counsel.

Lawsuits were filed in Juneau and Fairbanks Superior Courts on Aug. 27, 1992 and Sept. 25, 1992.

On Sept. 5, a judge instructed the director of the Division of Elections to cease petition activity. One year later, on Sept. 14, 1993, the Fairbanks Superior Court determined that certain ground for recall were not legally sufficient, while other grounds were, but overall the grounds were insufficient. The matter died.

[Read: A list of all the recall outcomes in Alaska, chronologically]

If Clarkson approves the recall petition language, the Recall Dunleavy group will be able to start collecting its 71,252 signatures needed to force the matter into a special election. The group has already shown its political clout by collecting an initial 49,006 signatures, which it submitted to the Division of Elections on Sept. 4. The Alaska Democratic Party is pushing hard to help the Recall Dunleavy group, and will be a staunch ally if there is a legal battle.

The Attorney General is in a slightly awkward position, as both legal counsel to the governor and the top attorney for the people of Alaska.

If he rules that the recall rationale is sound enough to take to the voters, then he would not be able to represent the governor, who would probably challenge that ruling, and have to rely on a private attorney to do so.

But Clarkson is more likely to rule that the recall campaign has not provided sufficient grounds; he’ll see it in favor of defending elections and not creating a condition where elections are immediately overturned by the disgruntled through a never-ending churn of costly court challenges.

If he turns them down, that would trigger a lawsuit being filed at Alaska Superior Court by the Recall Dunleavy group, which has already promised it will challenge the ruling.

After the decision is announced on Monday by Clarkson, Scott Kendall, Alaskans can anticipate that an immediate news release will come out from the Recall Dunleavy group, which is being funded by Ed Rasmuson. The details of the challenge will likely come at a press conference that Scott Kendall and his group will hold, for maximum exposure in the media.

Kendall, who is the group’s legal counsel and who was chief of staff to the disgraced Gov. Bill Walker, will probably file the appeal in Anchorage Superior Court. The hearings could take place within weeks, and the decision from the Superior Court judge would be appealed to the Alaska Supreme Court by whichever side loses.

STAND TALL WITH MIKE GROUP FORMS

Meanwhile, the Stand Tall With Mike group is beginning to get organized and is raising funds for the defense of the governor — eight full months after the recall group started its activities.

“Right now in Alaska, Mike Dunleavy’s opponents have near total control of the airwaves and the news most Alaskans are seeing, hearing, and reading. Your generous donation will allow us to get the other side of the story out. This will lead to increased public support for Mike and his conservative agenda that Alaska so desperately needs,” the Stand Tall With Mike website says.

Donations Welcome

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Written by

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

  • Obviously, the recallers have no case.

  • This is just running out the clock until Dunleavy gets a job with Trump administration. And he just might be too tall for Don. Heheh!

    • Certainly too tall for the Little Doodler.

      • His application is taking a long time to get approved-probably because he looks sort of shifty while trying to slouch around “the Donald.”

  • Strange times we are living in as the ones that are the cause of many of out public and policy problems can band together and remain counter-productive as they blame and gum up the works of those who are doing the right jobs trying to fine ways to fix those problems. The Governor is guilty of working his tail off finding ways of making a better future for all Alaskan’s.

  • ..And so now it really begins..Here in Alaska, and across the country. The next year will potentially determine whether we are governed by the will of the people, or by the ruling elite. This is all about power. To the extent it’s about party, is only because one party has, as its sole purpose, the acquisition and maintenance of power…Beyond that, party matters little. Both men, and both ideas are adamantly opposed by the establishment politicians of both parties, and their masters. Similarly, both men are hated most for who the represent: the people.

    • Says Walter about a president that lost the popular vote.

      • Go back to high school Civics class, B. This time, pay attention and don’t fall asleep in class.

  • I think we need to start over and teach those against We the people….why we are here.

  • Insufficient grounds! Let the idiot partisan Democrat lawyer take his recall petition to the Superior Court. Then it can get appealed to the state Supreme Court where all the justices will have to recuse themselves for making prejudicial statements about Dunleavy. Make the Democrats work themselves to death with no favorable outcome. Democrats are sour losers when they lose elections. We are seeing a lot of this kind of crap coming from them and it must be stopped for the good of the country.

  • I don’t understand why you write “disgraced by Governor Walker”. He and Dunleavy are alike in that they both wanted to balance the budget. Walker by increasing revenue, Dunleavy by cutting expenses. Same goal,just different means of achieving that goal. If you had written Walker’s lieutenant governor was disgraced, I would understand.

    • …..and you think “disgraced” is a properly fitting term for a child sex predator who is a married man of 76 years old and Lt. Governor?

      • I’d go with “criminally disgraced” and let the Democrats sort out the vernacular amongst themselves.

  • It’s telling that Ed Rasmuson, philanthropist, Republican, and life long Alaskan is the major funding source behind the recall (as he was for Dunleavy’s orig campaign). Mr. Rasmuson also supported John Sturgeon’s worthy cause.

    Listening to out of state, out of touch thoughtless advisers like Donna A, at the expense of listening to local conservatives and constituents, is unpardonable, especially when there is no attempt at an apology or even a half hearted acknowledgment of wrong.

    • I would characterize Ed Rasmuson as part of Alaska’s “deep state” that is very unhappy with Governor Dunleavy’s budget cutting, especially making the U of A hierarchy reorganize and become a more efficient entity. Many Republicans are part of the recall effort because Governor Dunleavy, like President Trump is thinning out the status quo government funding process and shaking up the normal political structure.

    • Billionaire Rasmuson? Oh yeah that guy, who the Democrats otherwise loathe, except when he gives some money away like a charging RINO. THAT Rasmuson.

  • They can’t win elections since their message is rejected by Alaskans. So, they are trying to overthrow duly elected governors and Representatives including the duly elected President of the United States. People who work actively to overthrow elections usually come from Banana Republics. Now, they come from the United States. They undermine democracy, fair elections, and free expression of ideas.

    • “They”,too, have the freedom to express their ideas. That does not undermine democracy or elections.

      • Who’s THEY? The Deep State THEY? btw, good comment, Randy Frank.

    • We can certainly speculate as to how much Dunleavy benefited from his promise of free money. And when/if this recall election happens the curtain will be lifted on this free money and it’s influence on election last year.
      No undermining involved either, as it’s a legal process fairly-well defined. You don’t like it but tough noogies.

    • Pandora came out of the box swinging.
      Love it.

  • Not even close Leland. Walker stole our PFD along with the House majority and Dunleavy tried to give it back. If you can’t see the difference between paying the bills on the backs of alaskans versus eliminating the bills then I’m sorry but there’s no hope for you.

  • What is sore in need of recall is the entirety of our lawlesslators.

  • Normally I would say the bar is too high for this to get any traction in the courts. But this is Alaska where the lowliest magistrate all the way up to the State Supreme Court make rulings based on political leanings. Flip a coin where the law is concerned.

    One BIG problem. Chief Justice Bolger (and the entire State SC) have been openly complaining about Dunleavy’s budget cuts. They even went so far as to admonish him in an open letter.

    How can SC possibly hear this case? Or did the finest jurists in Alaska not think about that before delving into the political frey?

  • They left out the most important reason of all: Democrats lost the election therefore it must be overturned.

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