JUNEAU, Alaska — An Alaska judge ruled Friday that an effort to recall Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy may proceed, a decision that is expected to be appealed.
The decision from the bench by Superior Court Judge Eric Aarseth in Anchorage followed arguments in the case and came two months after Gail Fenumiai, director of the state Division of Elections, rejected a bid to advance the recall effort.
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Fenumiai has said her decision was based on an opinion from Attorney General Kevin Clarkson that found the reasons listed for recall were "factually and legally deficient."
The Recall Dunleavy group has argued that Clarkson's analysis was overreaching and the recall effort should be allowed to move to a second, signature-gathering phase. The state Department of Law has said the group's claims lacked specificity or failed to explain how the alleged conduct resulted in consequences justifying recall.
Aarseth said he believes he does not have discretion to create more stringent definitions than have been used by courts before and said lawmakers have not stepped in to suggest that definitions used previously have been too broad or too liberally applied.
He said it's important to understand that the recall process is “fundamentally a political process. This is not an issue for the judicial branch to decide whether the governor should stay in office or not, or some other elected official. This is a question for the voters.”
Recall Dunleavy, among its claims, said the Republican 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.”
Aarseth struck one of the allegations that said Dunleavy improperly used his veto to “preclude the legislature from upholding its constitutional Health, Education and Welfare responsibilities.” The judge said while it may be difficult to achieve a veto override, the legislature has that option.
Grounds for recall in Alaska are lack of fitness, incompetence, neglect of duties or corruption.