PHOENIX — Calling him a “tyrant” who has violated his oath of office, a Gilbert resident who has been helping to organize protests at the Capitol against the COVID-19 restrictions imposed by Gov. Doug Ducey is now seeking to oust him from office.
The governor’s executive orders are unconstitutional, legal papers filed Friday with the secretary of state’s office contend.
So Marko Trickovic wants to force a special election not only to remove Ducey from office before his term ends at the end of 2022, but also to give voters a chance to select someone else.
The burden is substantial: He and his allies need 594,111 signatures by Aug. 29 to force an election. But given the normal disqualification rate on petitions, the more realistic goal could be closer to 750,000 signatures. Trickovic, chair of what he is calling Arizonans for Liberty, acknowledged the hurdle. But he said there are enough people who are angry with the governor for shutting down the state’s economy in the name of fighting the virus and for doing it in an illegal way.
And Trickovic figures that if he can find 200 people each collecting at least 30 signatures a day he should be able to force an election.
There already has been some sentiment building against the governor over both his stay-at-home order and his directive that only “essential” businesses can remain open.
But feelings may have only become more inflamed when Ducey announced Wednesday he would not let the first order expire as scheduled this past week. And while he said he would allow some businesses to reopen, other prohibitions remain, ranging from bars to personal services like barbers and hair salons.
The governor may also have further inflamed feelings with his comments aimed at business owners who had threatened to ignore his orders and open their doors anyway.
“This is an order that is enforceable by law,” Ducey said. “A violation is a $2,500 fine and up to six months in jail.”
Trickovic said people were paying attention.
“He literally declared war on the citizens of Arizona,” Trickovic said. “The fact that he came out and said he would jail people for trying to earn a living and feed people, that’s a tyrant.”
There was no immediate response from the governor’s office.
Trickovic acknowledged that if Ducey has acted in an unconstitutional fashion there is another potential remedy: have someone affected by the orders file suit and ask a court to void the executive orders. But he said the issue goes beyond the legal violations.
“He has violated his oath of office,” Trickovic said. “He doesn’t deserve to sit where he’s sitting.”
While recalls are difficult, they are not impossible.
Under the Arizona Constitution, it takes the signatures equivalent to 25% of those who voted for all candidates in the last gubernatorial election.
Foes of Gov. Evan Mecham gathered enough signatures to force an election. But it never got that far as the Legislature impeached him and removed him from office.
In 2011 those seeking the ouster of Senate President Russell Pearce submitted more than 18,300 signatures to force an election; they needed just 7,756 to be valid. Voters in his Mesa legislative district turned him out in favor of fellow Republican Jerry Lewis.
How deep and wide is the resentment of Ducey has yet to be shown.
A survey done for the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry asked what people thought of the governor’s approach to dealing with the virus. It found that even among Republicans only 12% thought he had gone too far, with 73% said his approach is “about right.”
But there is resentment within elements of his own party.
Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, said her decision on whether to sign the petition will depend on what Ducey does between now and Friday.
“If the governor backpedals on his ill-advised plan and lets people go back and feed their families ... then I’m good,” she said.
“If the governor continues to keep his boot on the neck of the people of Arizona, then absolutely,” Townsend said of signing the petition. “Top of the page.”
Trickovic said the reason there may not be more support at this point for a recall is that people are not getting the facts. He said many of the more than 60,000 deaths nationally being attributed to COVID-19 were actually from other causes like pneumonia and other complications, people he said who had preexisting conditions.
“These are the same people that were at risk of dying of a cold or the flu,” Trickovic said. “However, the media and government agencies that have lied to the people have gone out there and made this thing look like Ebola.”
Trickovic, a real estate agent, said this isn’t partisan, saying he is a Republican precinct committeeman. But he acknowledged that, even if the drive doesn’t succeed in recalling the governor, he would be happy if it damaged Ducey politically.
“If anything, we will expose who Doug Ducey is,” Trickovic said. “And, if anything, that’s going to hurt his chances of potentially running for a Senate seat in two years, like he thinks he’s going to do, or possibly for vice president.”