Alaska Supreme Court to hear arguments in recall case

A state court judge too loosely interpreted recall standards in ruling an effort to remove Gov. Mike Dunleavy from office could advance, attorneys for the state Division of Elections argue.

The attorneys, in court documents, have asked the Alaska Supreme Court to reverse Superior Court Judge Eric Aarseth’s decision. The Supreme Court is set to hear arguments Wednesday.

The grounds for recall in Alaska are lack of fitness, incompetence, neglect of duties or corruption.

The Recall Dunleavy campaign, among its claims, said the governor violated the law by not appointing a judge within a required time frame, misused state funds for partisan online ads and mailers, and improperly used his veto authority to “attack the judiciary.”

State attorneys contend the recall campaign’s statement of grounds are inadequate and can only be sufficient if the court construes the terms “so liberally as to erase their meaning and render Alaska’s recall system as pure politics based on policy differences.”

Attorneys for the recall campaign, in court documents, say the state is seeking to impose stricter new requirements that “have no support in any prior case or the legislative history of the recall statute.”

Anger over budget cuts Dunleavy proposed last year helped fuel the recall push.

The Division of Elections in November rejected the recall application. Aarseth later ruled the recall effort could proceed.

The Supreme Court allowed recall backers to begin a new signature-gathering phase while the appeal was being considered.

The court plans to hear arguments by telephone Wednesday, amid concerns about the coronavirus.