Trump defends Alaska governor amid recall push to oust him

Mike Dunleavy

FILE – In this June 28, 2019 file photo, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks to reporters about his budget vetoes at the state Capitol in Juneau, Alaska. President Donald Trump is weighing in on the effort to potentially recall Dunleavy, saying Democrats are treating the first-term Republican governor unfairly. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer, File)

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JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — President Donald Trump on Wednesday voiced his opposition to a push in Alaska aimed at recalling Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy, with a decision expected soon on whether the effort will advance.

Trump tweeted that Democrats are treating Dunleavy unfairly and trying to recall him because of an agenda that Trump said includes jobs, energy and the economy.

Claire Pywell, who manages the Recall Dunleavy campaign, said the effort is not partisan and the group is being mischaracterized.

“Yes, it is charged. Yes, it is political,” she said. “But it is necessary, and it is bipartisan.”

State officials announced Sept. 5 plans to complete within 60 days a review of signatures submitted by the campaign and an analysis of whether the grounds for recall listed met legal requirements.

Recall supporters have said they expect a court challenge if their application is denied. If the recall advances, there would be another round of signature gathering.

The Recall Dunleavy group said it collected 49,006 signatures as part of an initial phase, for which 28,501 signatures were needed. The push was fueled by anger over budget vetoes.

Lawmakers didn’t have the votes to override the vetoes but sent Dunleavy a spending package aimed at restoring much of the funding. He agreed to a lesser-level of cuts to the University of Alaska system, staggered over three years, and restored funding for some other programs but cut funds for such things as Medicaid, public broadcasting and a cruise ship monitoring program.

Grounds for recalling governors in Alaska are lack of fitness, incompetence, neglect of duties or corruption.

The recall group, among its claims, says Dunleavy violated the law by not appointing a judge within a required timeframe, misused state funds for partisan purposes and improperly used his veto authority to “attack the judiciary.”

Dunleavy vetoed from the court system budget an amount the administration said was commensurate to state funding for abortions after Alaska’s Supreme Court this year struck down as unconstitutional a state law and regulation seeking to define what constitutes medically necessary abortions for Medicaid funding. Attorney General Kevin Clarkson has said the veto was within Dunleavy’s authority.

Dunleavy, a former state senator who took office in December, has in recent weeks done interviews with conservative outlets defending his record and drawing parallels between himself and Trump, who faces an impeachment inquiry. Trump’s tweets included the internet address for the group set up to oppose the recall, Stand Tall with Mike.

Dunleavy spokesman Jeff Turner said by email that the governor is on a personal trip and had no further information. On Monday, Dunleavy gave an interview to Bloomberg News in Washington, D.C.

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