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Effort to recall Alaska governor dropped after 2-year push

Elstun W. Lauesen holds a sign encouraging the recall of Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy at a rally Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019, in Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The campaign aimed at recalling Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy said Wednesday it is ceasing that effort, with a gubernatorial election looming next year and the group short of the signatures needed to force a recall vote.

The Recall Dunleavy group said that as of Saturday it had gathered 62,373 signatures, shy of the 71,252 needed. But Joelle Hall, a member of the group’s steering committee, said the group would have wanted additional signatures as a cushion in case some were thrown out.

Collecting signatures during the pandemic has been difficult, she said.

Meda DeWitt, the group’s chair, in a statement called on Alaskans to “rededicate their efforts to denying” Dunleavy another term.

Messages seeking comment were left for DeWitt, Dunleavy’s office and Dunleavy’s campaign.

The recall effort took off in 2019, amid public outcry over budget cuts proposed by the Republican governor. Recall supporters quickly gathered signatures for an initial phase, but their application was rejected, prompting a legal fight the group eventually won. Then the pandemic hit.

Dunleavy, who argued the recall was political, has filed a letter of intent to seek re-election. Others who have announced plans to run for governor include former Gov. Bill Walker, an independent Dunleavy succeeded in 2018; former state Rep. Les Gara, a Democrat; and Libertarian William “Billy” Toien.

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