There is a grassroots effort that has been started by those who are very upset with the governor’s recent vetoes. The effort I am referring to is the Recall Dunleavy campaign that has recently formed and is collecting signatures from around the state. There are several things that can be said of this campaign and the potential success or failure of it.
First and foremost, the governor and his team need to be worried. This campaign is not some fly by night effort being put together at the last minute it is well organized and has respected people involved with it. The fact that Vic Fischer, Arliss Sturglewski, and Joe Usibelli are involved shows how bipartisan and mainstream this campaign is.
The folks involved in this campaign will get the signatures to have a recall election held. The anger that is present all over the state over these vetoes is real and this will channel that anger into a concrete action people can take to get back at the governor. Most likely the governor and his staff are not taking this threat seriously and that is a major mistake on their part because this threat can see him removed from office. If the governor were wise he would be calling up his brother Francis and having his brother set up an independent expenditure effort to support him in a recall campaign.
Another side to this is the fact that there is going to be money from left wing advocacy groups to support the recall campaign. You will have the AFL-CIO involved as well as Planned Parenthood and The Alaska Center for the Environment pooling resources to support the recall. The ACLU of Alaska could provide the legal services to defend the recall campaign from any legal challenges that the administration might bring. When this gets approved and goes on the ballot the governor is going to have to campaign hard in order to survive and stay in the governor’s mansion. He will need the support of independent expenditure groups and will need a very strong ground game to win. He will need to get Republican voters in the Mat-Su Valley and on the Kenai Peninsula to turn out for him.
If that happens he will be able to stay in the Governor’s Mansion in Juneau. There are people he can reach out to that would be able to fire up his base in a recall election. One man in particular that the governor could reach out to is Michael Chambers. Chambers is the former chairman of the Alaska Libertarian Party who worked closely with the governor when he was in the state Senate on budget issues. He was later involved with rallying the conservative grassroots in support of the Dunleavy campaign in last year’s election. After the election he was locked out of the administration and has not been involved in the internal process. If the governor or his team don’t have Chambers or others like him developing a ground game for the recall then they are behind the curb.
Lastly, there are two scenarios to consider about the recall effort and the public policy direction that comes after it.
If Gov. Dunleavy is voted out in the recall then Kevin Meyer will take his place and the new administration he will lead will be more moderate and easier for legislative leadership to work with. If Gov. Dunleavy survives the recall effort he will either chart a different course for the administration which will involve more compromise and negotiation on his part to get something from the Legislature. If he wins the recall and continues on the course he is on then it will imperil his chances to get any legislative victory for the next four years. On top of that, the governor will open himself up to a brutal gubernatorial election — and primary — that he may or may not win.
Editor’s Note: An earlier online version of this column stated that the ACLU of Alaska ‘will provide legal services to defend challenges to the recall effort.’ The ACLU of Alaska responded via email on Tuesday saying, “the ACLU of Alaska is in no way affiliated with or connected to the recall effort.” The phrase reflects the prognostications of the author and not statement of fact in the here and now. We apologize for any confusion and have changed the word ‘will’ to ‘could.’w