Judge rules in favor of recall effort against Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy

An Alaska judge ruled Friday in favor of a recall effort against Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy after the state Division of Elections rejected a bid late last year to advance the campaign.

In his ruling, Superior Court Judge Eric Aarseth said he doesn't have the authority to create more stringent definitions than those previously used by courts. He said the recall process is a "fundamentally" 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," Aarseth said from his bench in Anchorage. "This is a question for the voters, and the constitution makes that very clear."

The ruling is expected to be appealed.

Recall Dunleavy, the group trying to remove the governor just over a year after he took office, says he broke the law by not appointing a judge within a mandated time frame and misused state funds for partisan online ads and mailers.

TRUMP DEFENDS EMBATTLED ALASKA GOVERNOR FACING RECALL PUSH

An Alaska judge ruled Friday a recall effort against Gov. Mike Dunleavy can continue. 

An Alaska judge ruled Friday a recall effort against Gov. Mike Dunleavy can continue.  (Office of Michael Dunleavy)

The group said he also used his veto authority to attack the judiciary. Grounds for recall in Alaska are lack of fitness, incompetence, neglect of duties or corruption. The recall group is not alleging corruption.

Gail Fenumiai, director of the state Division of Elections, said she rejected the recall bid based on an opinion from state Attorney General Kevin Clarkson, who found the reasons listed for the recall "factually and legally deficient."

The recall group argued the argument was overreaching and said it should be allowed to move on to a second signature-gathering phase.

“This is not a mere policy disagreement, and the recall sponsors have alleged serious violations of the law," said Jahna Lindemuth, an attorney for the recall group.

Dunleavy's office did not immediately respond to a Fox News request for comment. He questioned the motives of recall supporters in a Fox News interview last year.

"These folks started to talk about a recall a mere two months into my term and its more about the agenda I was elected on and the agenda I am implementing that some of the folks on the left don’t agree with,” Dunleavy told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto in October.

Aarseth said petitions supporting the recall should be issued no later than Feb. 10, unless the date is stayed by the Alaska Supreme Court. The group needs at least 71,252 signatures from registered voters.

Claire Pywell, who manages the recall group, said the ruling is "a critical step in allowing the citizens of Alaska to exercise their constitutional right to recall.”

The Department of Law, which represents the Division of Elections in the case, said it "essentially gives us a political recall with no threshold."

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“We look forward to arguing these issues on appeal and receiving the court's direction," the agency told Fox News in a statement.

President Trump defended Dunleavy in October via Twitter, saying he was being "treated unfairly by the Democrats because he is doing an unbelievable job and fulfilling every one of his promises."