Anchorage judge, in reversal, pauses Dunleavy recall to wait for Alaska Supreme Court ruling

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks to reporters earlier this month at a fundraiser for Stand Tall With Mike, the group fighting the effort to recall the governor. (Photo by Nat Herz / Alaska Public Media)

A lower court judge in Anchorage issued an order Tuesday morning that temporarily halted the effort to recall Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy.

The order, from Anchorage Superior Court Judge Eric Aarseth, blocks the Recall Dunleavy campaign from gathering signatures to put the question on the ballot until the Alaska Supreme Court reviews the case.

The group defending Dunleavy, Stand Tall With Mike, last week asked Anchorage Superior Court Judge Eric Aarseth for what’s known as a “stay” on his previous ruling that the campaign could move ahead. The group said that its members — Dunleavy’s supporters — would be “irreparably harmed without a pause.”

Attorneys for the group argue that a ruling from the Supreme Court could force a change in the language of the recall petition.

“There are four charges that the Superior Court ruled should go before the voters. It simply makes sense that we make sure that those are the ultimate ones that survive before people sign it,” said Craig Richards, a Stand Tall With Mike attorney and a former Alaska attorney general. He added: “Otherwise, the validity of the signatures will get muddied.”

Aarseth ruled earlier this month that the recall campaign should be allowed to gather signatures, reversing a ruling by state elections officials that the the campaign’s grounds for recall were legally insufficient. Aarseth gave the Alaska Division of Elections a Feb. 10 deadline to provide the group with petition booklets.

At the time, Aarseth said he did not intend to grant a request by Stand Tall With Mike to pause the signature-gathering process, and his ruling Tuesday represented a reversal of that position.

The recall campaign, by Tuesday afternoon, had already filed a motion asking Aarseth to reconsider his ruling, noting that he granted Stand Tall With Mike’s request for a pause without hearing counter-arguments from Recall Dunleavy.

In a prepared statement, Recall Dunleavy’s campaign manager, Claire Pywell, stressed that Aarseth’s order Tuesday did not affect his underlying judgment that the recall grounds were valid.

“Recall Dunleavy intends to pursue all necessary procedures at every level to guarantee that Alaskans will have the opportunity to sign the recall petition as soon as possible,” she said.

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