While the Recall Rivera campaign was limited by the Anchorage Municipality to focus its ballot sponsor statement on the narrow substance of its legal recall complaint against Assemblyman Felix Rivera, the assemblyman himself was able to go “off topic” on the ballot statement. Way off topic.
Rivera used the ballot to boast of the many great things he has done while on the Assembly.
Rivera went so off topic, in fact, that he turned the ballot into the equivalent of a campaign brochure. The legality of his statement is now being questioned by critics.
On ballots that went out to voters in his district, Rivera used the ballot to talk about how he was rebuilding the police force, revitalizing the Anchorage economy, and to clean up encampments and house the homeless.
“I have been working hard for you every day and getting results,” Rivera said.
“The global pandemic has affected all our lives. I worked hard to effectively utilize millions of dollars in economic relief for neighbors affected by the pandemic and rental relief to keep families in their homes,” he was allowed to write to persuade voters to vote “no” on his recall.
The actual reason for the recall has nothing to do with police, homeless, or the economy. It has nothing to do with the CARES Act money, or how it was spent, a subject that is now part of a targeted federal audit.
The reason for the recall is that Rivera, as chair of the Assembly, invited chosen people to come into the Assembly Chambers in violation of the Emergency Order that prohibited gatherings of more than 15 people last summer. As protesters stood outside objecting to the closed meetings, Rivera invited selected people to gather inside to testify. After he was informed the meeting was in violation of the mayor’s emergency order, he shrugged and continued to have his select people in attendance.
Recall Rivera advocates say the ballot language allowed for Rivera to defend himself inappropriate, because he discusses aspects wholly unrelated to the recall.
But, in fact, using the ballot this way is allowed by Alaska Statute, which only says,
Sec. 29.26.330. Form of recall ballot.
A recall ballot must contain
(1) the grounds for recall as stated in 200 words or less on the recall petition;
(2) a statement by the official named on the recall petition of 200 words or less, if the statement is filed with the clerk for publication and public inspection at least 20 days before the election;
(3) the following question: “Shall (name of person) be recalled from the office of (office)? Yes [ ] No [ ]”.
The Recall Rivera group gathered signatures and fought the municipality in court to get the question before the District 4 Anchorage voters. The court agreed that the voters must have a right to recall the second-term Assemblyman, who is a former aide to former Mayor Ethan Berkowitz.