By Tim Bradner

A state Superior Court judge in Anchorage gave organizers of an effort to recall Gov. Mike Dunleavy the okay to begin gathering signatures on petition books Friday, Dec. 10.

The Recall Dunleavy campaign gathered 49,000 signatures in a first round of its initiative, which were turned in earlier to Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer for approval to allow a second round of signature-gathering to begin.

Meyer rejected the petition based on Attorney General Kevin Clarkson’s advice that the recall initiative had not cited sufficient legal grounds for Dunleavy’s removal. Superior Court Eric Aarseth disagreed, and ordered the lieutenant governor to make petition books for the second round available by Feb. 10.

The state administration has appealed Aarseth’s decision to the state Supreme Court.

Under current law the Recall Dunleavy organizers must obtain 71,252 signatures of registered Alaska voters to force a special election for the governor’s removal.

The 49,000 signatures gathered in the initial round cannot be counted in the second round, so organizers of the recall are now going back to the signers in the first effort to get new signatures on the petition booklets.

Unless the Supreme Court reverses the Superior Court decision the new signature-gathering effort will be underway as the Legislature gets to work in the state capital.

Regardless of the outcome the initiative will add new twists in the legislative session.

The governor has already backed away from drastic budget cuts he proposed last year which many believe sparked the recall campaign.

If a new round of petition signature gathering is underway Dunleavy will be even more likely to take a softer approach on the budget, and in his dealings with the Legislature, in the 2020 session.

“Today we stood our ground to defend Alaskans’ right to Recall Dunleavy, marking a critical step in advancing this historic, bipartisan movement,” said Meda DeWitt, Steering Committee Chair of Recall Dunleavy. “This governor has acted illegally and made unconscionable decisions; we are working towards a stronger future for all Alaskans.”

The recall campaign cited what it called disturbing displays of careless and illegal decision making, refusal to uphold and follow the law, and multiple abuses of power in its filing. After review of legal filings and hearing oral arguments, the Judge ruled that the recall should go to a vote of the people, DeWitt said. Claire Pywell, Campaign Manager of Recall Dunleavy, said “Today the voices of more than 49,000 Alaskans were heard in court,” said.

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