PHOENIX — Claiming he botched the state’s response to COVID-19, a new group hopes to force a recall election against Gov. Doug Ducey.
Adam Halleck, chairman of the group dubbed Accountable Arizona, said Ducey was late in closing down the state and too quick to reopen it in May. The latter move led to a spike in cases and an admission from the governor that he had made a mistake.
Since that time Ducey reimposed some restrictions. He also removed his prohibition against local officials mandating the use of masks, though he declined to impose a statewide mandate. The infection and death rates have gone down.
But Halleck, a registered Democrat, said all that could change, and that the state needs someone in charge who will do a better job next time.
The group, which Halleck said has Republicans, Democrats and independents, has an uphill battle.
Backers need 594,111 valid signatures on petitions within 120 days. And organizers concede that, given normal disqualification rates, the more realistic goal is 700,000.
That translates to needing more than 5,800 signatures every day for seven days a week. Halleck conceded that, at this point, there are no financial backers to help hire paid circulators, though he is hoping for “crowdsource” donations to make that possible.
There was no immediate response from aides to Ducey.
The new petition drive comes less than a month before time ran out for another recall, this one pushed by those on the other side of the issue.
Its backers argued that Ducey’s executive orders limiting travel and business activity were unconstitutional. But there is no evidence they ran an actual campaign to get people to sign petitions.
Halleck acknowledged there are Arizonans who agree with that other effort and believe the Republican governor has gone too far with his restrictions during the pandemic. But he contends far more Arizonans disagree with the basic positions Ducey has taken.
“If Doug Ducey had issued a statewide mask mandate, like a lot of other states have done, we probably could have reduced community spread tremendously,” and prevented some deaths, Halleck said.
“We have over 5,400 deaths today in the state,” he said. “How many more people could have survived?”
There is reason for believing that the feelings of Arizonans toward the governor are linked to his handling of the pandemic.
In June, before the spike in cases, 59% of those polled by OH Predictive Insights said they approved of how Ducey was doing his job.
A month later, after Ducey eased earlier restrictions and before he allowed local leaders to impose face mask mandates, daily cases peaked at more than 5,500 a day, and that approval rating dropped to 35%.
Pollster Mike Noble said Ducey’s numbers have picked up a bit since then as the spread has decreased. But Halleck, a political science graduate now working in sales — he won’t identify his employer — said that does not eliminate need for the recall.
“Who is to say that another catastrophe, another pandemic isn’t on the horizon?” he said. “We just don’t think that Doug Ducey actually has the appetite to lead Arizona.”
While recalls are difficult given the high signature requirement — 25% of the number of voters who voted for all candidates in the last gubernatorial race — they are not impossible.
Foes of Republican Gov. Evan Mecham gathered enough signatures to force a recall election in 1988. But that proved unnecessary as he was impeached, convicted and removed from office.
In 2011 those seeking the ouster of state Senate President Russell Pearce submitted more than 18,300 signatures to force an election, far more than the 7,756 they needed to be valid. Voters in his Mesa legislative district turned him out in favor of fellow Republican Jerry Lewis.
If the new group gets the signatures, that would set the stage for an election at which Ducey’s name would be on the ballot along with anyone else who can get nominating signatures.
Concerned about COVID-19?
Sign up now to get the most recent coronavirus headlines and other important local and national news sent to your email inbox daily.