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Next month, Midtown voters will have the final say in the Felix Rivera recall debate

Published: Mar. 10, 2021 at 3:11 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - It took several months of signature gathering, legal battles and a certification from the municipal clerk’s office, but during Anchorage’s 2021 election, a final decision will be made over whether or not to recall the current assembly chair.

The option to remove Midtown Assemblyman Felix Rivera will appear on ballots, after he allegedly permitted more people to occupy the assembly chambers than what was permitted under the active emergency orders.

“Those facts are actually in contention, whether they actually happened or not,” Rivera told Alaska’s News Source. “On the other hand, these individuals also sued me because I didn’t let enough people in the room, right? This all just smacks of political gamesmanship and it’s disappointing.”

RELATED: Petition to recall assembly chair partially approved

In January, a separate group of Midtown residents challenged the recall in court. A judge’s ruling that found the recall effort was valid and would appear on ballots in April.

The lead petitioner for the recall, Russell Biggs, responded to our requests for comment via email. He acknowledged that the recall is about Rivera’s political views, and that it is also a right which is protected by Alaska’s constitution.

“The #1 reason the assembly meetings have turned toxic is because Felix Rivera created an environment where the Anchorage citizens no longer trust the public process. Mr. Rivera is directly responsible for that,” Biggs said wrote in the email. “He has elevated his partisan agenda over the laws that govern public funds and public discourse.”

According to Rivera, the use of a recall to remove him from office one year after his most recent reelection is “frivolous.” He says that if voters want him gone, they should put forth a candidate that can beat him in an election.

“Frankly, I think its a lazy way of running a democracy, just changing people out constantly if you don’t like their political views,” he said. “That’s what elections are for, that’s not what recalls are for.”

When asked about whether there were any concerns that this might lead to more recalls, anytime an elected leader take unpopular action, Biggs said he had none.

“The bar for an Assembly recall is actually quite high and it’s difficult to get past the application stage,” he wrote. “The Muni attorney has denied two other recall applications this year and despite a lengthy and expensive appeal to Superior Court, those won’t be heard for an entire year after the filing, which is deeply unfair to the petitioners.”

To submit the recall for certification, 2,735 signatures were required. That number is represents 25% of the total number of votes that were cast for Rivera’s assembly seat, when he won last year’s election. Biggs, and other petitioners, collected 4,999.

There has never been a successful recall of an assembly member in Anchorage in at least the last 25 years, according to the municipal clerk’s office.

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