The campaign to remove Gov. Mike Dunleavy from office has come to Bethel. Volunteers with Recall Dunleavy began collecting signatures last week in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta hub. More than 71,000 registered voters across the state need to sign the recall petition in order to bring it to a vote. KYUK talked with the Bethel volunteers on their first day of signature gathering.
In their first 40 minutes, campaign volunteers Beverly Hoffman and Kathy Hanson have collected 29 signatures and registered three new voters.
“Off to a good start,” Hoffman said.
The bipartisan campaign has four grounds for ousting the governor from office, all of which are still being reviewed in court. The petition claims that Dunleavy violated Alaska law by not appointing a judge within the time limit required by state statute. It claims that he misused state funds on political advertising. It claims that he violated separation-of-powers by inappropriately vetoing state funds. And it claims that he acted incompetently by mistakenly vetoing other state funds.
Beyond the legal reasons for recalling the governor, Hanson also finds fault in Dunleavy’s deep budget cuts. Last year, he voted $444 million from the state operating budget.
“Crippling the university. Whoever heard of a state crippling its own university? And that’s what he’s doing. Cutting funding to K-12. Threatening to cut Medicaid services. Increasing the price outrageously for the Pioneer Home. Those are not people who are rich,” Hanson said.
Frustration with Dunleavy’s budget cuts drove others to sign the petition as well.
“I know the State of Alaska is practically piss-poor, but much of these budget cuts, like the VPSO program, ferry system, really affect rural Alaska,” Elia Epchook said after adding his name to the petition.
Petition signer Dalarie Peters wants the state to generate revenue rather than cut services to balance its budget.
“Unfortunately, I think it’s time to go back to an income tax. Hopefully it won’t have a critical effect on our low-income families. Maybe more focused on our middle class and higher earners,” Peters said.
To generate state revenue, campaign volunteers Hanson and Hoffman also advocate for an income tax and reducing the rate of tax credits the state gives to oil and gas companies: an estimated $1.2 billion last year. Ultimately, they say that there’s nothing the governor can do to change their minds on the recall. Hanson and Hoffman are two of 11 people in Bethel gathering signatures for Recall Dunleavy. They plan to drive the ice road to nearby villages with their petitions and to be in Bethel wherever people are gathering.
“All the Saturday Markets, Cama-i, probably some basketball games,” Hanson said.
Dunleavy’s office would not comment on the recall effort, citing it as a campaign matter. Last week two groups, “Keep Dunleavy” and “Elections Matter,” launched efforts to defend the governor against the recall petition. Both groups are based in Fairbanks.