Commentary: Recall Dunleavy effort draws to a close

An August 2020 Recall Dunleavy signature-gathering event held at Anchorage’s Spenard Farmer’s Market. (Aug. 8, 2020) Photo courtesy of Recall Dunleavy

By Meda DeWitt
For The Cordova Times

As of Wednesday Aug. 25, the Recall Dunleavy effort is officially drawing to a close. We are proud to have run one of the most successful, bipartisan and overwhelming grassroots efforts in the history of Alaska. The movement to recall Michael J. Dunleavy from the governor’s office was driven by Alaskans who care about the future of this great state and who are courageous enough to take a stand against the imminent threats to our communities.

Last month the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed that the Recall Dunleavy effort had the right to move forward and that the law was on our side. The courts have also confirmed beyond any doubt that Dunleavy has repeatedly broken the law and his oath to our constitution.

The decision to wind down the Recall was made thoughtfully by the steering committee. Strategically speaking, the Recall has done what it was intended to do, to protect Alaska and Alaskans from Dunleavy’s complete ineptitude and failure of moral character.

Now that he has filed for re-election the rules have changed. If we choose to continue at this point, which is legally possible, we would have to conform to a new set of regulations. This would mean we would have to treat data pertaining to donors and signers differently. We know that he used the phase 1 Recall list to blacklist Alaskans from jobs with the state of Alaska and state affiliated entities. Dunleavy’s administration has a history of vengeful and illegal retaliation. We believe that a new submission of signatures will put even more civil servants and dedicated Alaskans’ service at risk.

Another consideration is that we are a grassroots movement run and funded by Alaskans. Even if we gathered all the signatures by Sept. 1, by the time the Division of Elections could verify the signatures, assuming no lawsuit from the governor’s campaign and dark money groups, the state would face a special election with a price tag of $1.5 million at the beginning of 2022.

Not to mention contending in a grueling election season with millions of dollars that will be spent on political ads. By officially ending the Recall Dunleavy movement, it ends his ability to shadow raise money for his governor’s campaign race. Dunleavy has been crying and panhandling in Florida and all over the Lower 48 to funnel money through his anti-recall group.

We, Alaskans, have so much to be proud of.

The record-breaking pace of signature gathering, the hundreds of volunteers across the state, the hundreds of thousands of dollars raised from individual Alaskan donors, all created pressure on the Dunleavy administration. As Dunleavy threatened to incinerate our state government with his 2019 budget, we provided a firebreak for things like the Alaska Marine Highway, Power Cost Equalization, senior benefits, the Pioneer Home, the Alaska State Council on the Arts, and many other needed programs. We can’t forget the initial $130 million cut proposed for the University of Alaska. We fought for UA and protected that institution from a far worse fate.

Timing is everything, unfortunately last spring, the pandemic broke our stride. With a heavy heart the tough decision was made to pull back our signature gathering efforts for the safety of hundreds of our volunteers. The transition to COVID-19 conscious signature gathering by signing at home was another historical first, but was a slow and arduous climb. Today, 15 months before the next election with 62,373 signatures in hand, we have decided it is time to look to the future. We are calling on Alaskans to rededicate their efforts to denying Dunleavy another term marked by chaos and mismanagement.

The Recall gave a place for Alaskans to fight for the state we love. We want to thank the thousands of signers, volunteers and donors who fueled the recall for over two years. This effort was the biggest local expression of democracy in most of our lifetimes and has broken every record; fastest collection of signatures for the application, unprecedented grassroots activism, and statewide bipartisan community engagement. We checked the power of an out-of-control governor, made him change course and listen to the people.

The fight is not over. We must remain vigilant and push back on the draconian policies and bully tactics of the Dunleavy Administration. In 2022, we have a chance to correct this mistake and end this reign of error. Stay strong and we will meet again in the future in another form to finish this important work.

With love and gratitude, I say Gunalchéesh one last time as the Chair of Recall Dunleavy,

Meda DeWittis a Lingít Traditional Healer, ethno-herbalist, educator, community organizer and events coordinator. She has associates degrees in science and human services, a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies; Women’s Rites of Passage; a master’s degree of Arts in Alaska Native Traditional Healing at the Alaska Pacific University; and is currently in an indigenous studies doctoral program.