A group of volunteers collected signatures for a campaign to recall Governor Mike Dunleavy at the Kodiak Island Brewery on Thursday.
The campaign was launched in response to concerns over Dunleavy’s budget cuts, which have slashed funding for public programs including the Alaska Marine Highway System, universities, healthcare and social services. In late June, Dunleavy announced vetoes of more than $400 million, in order to deliver on his campaign promise of giving Alaskans a full payout of the permanent dividend fund, amounting to $3,000.
“I was just appalled about what I was reading about his budget cuts,” said Kodiak resident Robyn Cassidy, who organized the July 11 protest against Dunleavy’s vetoes in front of the Kodiak Legislature Information Office.
Cassidy says she spends a lot of time on Facebook, and found a Recall Dunleavy Facebook group more than a month ago. She joined the group and quickly became one of its moderators.
On Wednesday, the group held a teleconference at noon in order to organize Thursday’s signature drive, which officially launches the effort to recall the governor across the state.
In order to apply for a recall, state law requires the signatures of 28,501 individuals who are registered to vote in the State of Alaska, signifying 10% of those who voted in the last general election.
“I’m going to guess we’ll get there today,” Cassidy said, standing in the Brewery on Thursday afternoon.
If the campaign is successful in gaining enough signatures to apply for a recall, they will then need to collect 71,252 signatures of registered Alask voters, equaling 25% of voters, in order to advance to another election.
Within the first three hours of their signature drive, volunteers in the Kodiak brewery collected more than 100 signatures.
To collect signatures in Kodiak, Cassidy collaborated with a group of Kodiak residents who have met every Thursday at noon in the Kodiak Public Library to brainstorm ideas on how to proactively address their concerns regarding Dunleavy’s budget cuts.
Kodiak resident Lori Seibe, who coordinated the collection of signatures in the Kodiak Brewery, said that she is willing to organize similar signature drives in the future, but the number of drives will depend on how many signatures are collection on the first day.
“I hope it creates change and just makes people think about what’s happening in the government and how it affects them,” Seibe said.
For future signing events, Siebe said she hopes to find places that get a lot of foot traffic, to maximize the number of signatures received.
Ben Millstein, Kodiak Brewery manager said that he is happy to host the signing events, but is not officially endorsing the Recall Dunleavy campaign.
Mike and Gina Friccero are two Kodiakans who signed the petition before 3 p.m. on Thursday.
“On the one hand, people should suffer the consequences they deserve,” Mike Friccero said, lamenting the governor’s decision to pursue a high PFD at the expense of many government-sponsored programs. “(Dunleavy) put an incentive on the table for people to vote against their interests and now they see the price they’ll have to pay and they’re not willing to pay it.”
“I have a feeling it’s going to have a lot of traction. A lot of people are upset,” Friccero added. “Coastal Alaska is going to recall. The question is — will the oil patch and rail belt?”
The Recall campaign co-chairs include Joseph Usibelli, Chairman of the Board of Usibelli Cole Mine; Arliss Sturgulewski, former Republican state senator from Anchorage; and Vic Fischer, the last surviving delegate to the 1955 Alaska Constitutional Convention.
The Recall Dunleavy petition cites neglect of duties, incompetence and/or lack of fitness at the grounds of recall. It specifically addresses four concerns, which include an allegation that the governor violated separation of powers by improperly using the line-item veto.
“I can't have an opinion on that. That really is up to the public,” said Senator Gary Stevens when asked about the Recall Dunleavy campaign. “The legislature is not involved in a recall of the governor at all in anyway. And that's up to the public to decide what they want to do. If they think he has made some egregious mistakes and they want to replace him, then that is their right to do that.”
Dunleavy has previously stated that he does not believe his budget vetoes are sufficient grounds for a recall.
“Sadly, at all levels of government, we’ve seen the inability to have legitimate policy differences,” Dunleavy spokesman Matt Shuckerow wrote in a statement to the Kodiak Daily Mirror.
“Governor Dunleavy was elected as an agent of change, refusing to accept the status quo and keenly focused on addressing the challenges the many before him have been unwilling to tackle.
“While some will focus on political gamesmanship, Governor Dunleavy’s administration is focused on empowering Alaskans through the agenda he ran on, including addressing Alaska’s unsustainable budget, improving public safety, growing the economy, fighting for pro-business policies, and championing a full statutory PFD,” the statement reads.
“We live in a democracy and there is a process to make it known that you might not be satisfied with an elected officials,” said Kodiak City Mayor Pat Branson.