A recall effort against Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) got off to a huge start, garnering over 18,000 signatures in the first week. That is more than two-thirds of the number needed for the initial round of a recall campaign in the Last Frontier.

Much of the criticism of Dunleavy is centered on the $440 million he axed from the state budget, mostly from spending on higher education and public programs. This included a $135 million cut to the three-campus University of Alaska, a reduction that spurred the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities to warn lawmakers that the system could lose its accreditation.

While recall campaigns are nothing new – the Alaska campaign is just one of a handful underway in states like Colorado, Oregon and New Jersey – many observers say the effort to oust Dunleavy has more legs than most.

In a statement, the group Recall Dunleavy listed several complaints about the governor’s performance, including “neglect of duties, incompetence, and lack of fitness.”

The recall effort got a boost last week when the board of Cook Region Inlet Inc., one of the state’s largest Native Alaskan tribes, announced its support. In a message to its members, the tribe said recalling Dunleavy was necessary “to protect the health, education and well-being of our shareholders and all Alaskans.”

If the campaign reaches the 28,501 signatures needed for the initial effort to move forward, organizers will then need to gather over 71,000 to place the issue before voters.

A Dunleavy spokesperson said he doubts the campaign will qualify for the ballot, but its strong start appears to have not gone unnoticed. He has already announced he would rescind almost $9 million in early education cuts as well as millions more in cuts to senior programs. And last Tuesday the governor announced he would restore roughly half the funding he cut from the U of A budget and spread the remaining cuts out over three years.

Whether the university agreement holds up remains to be seen because Dunleavy actually does not have the constitutional authority to make the deal. That power resides with lawmakers, who are under no obligation to honor its tenets. (ANCHORAGE DAILY NEWS, ANCHORAGE PRESS, FORBES, INSIDE HIGHER ED)