Alaska state Rep. David Eastman, a Wasilla Republican, is shown seated on the House floor on April 29, 2022, in Juneau, Alaska. The Division of Elections has determined that Rep. Eastman is eligible to run for office after reviewing challenges to his candidacy. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer, File)

Alaska state Rep. David Eastman, a Wasilla Republican, is shown seated on the House floor on April 29, 2022, in Juneau, Alaska. The Division of Elections has determined that Rep. Eastman is eligible to run for office after reviewing challenges to his candidacy. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer, File)

Alaska legislator, member of Oath Keepers, faces lawsuit challenging his eligibility for office

Members of the Oath Keepers, including the group’s founder, have been accused of crimes linked to the Jan. 6 riots

  • By James Brooks Alaska Beacon
  • Tuesday, August 2, 2022 11:04pm
  • NewsState News

By James Brooks

Alaska Beacon

A former member of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly is challenging the eligibility of Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, for state office.

Randall Kowalke, aided by the civil rights law firm Northern Justice Project, filed suit in Anchorage Superior Court on Friday, saying in a legal complaint that Eastman’s membership in the Oath Keepers militia violates the disloyalty clause of the Alaska Constitution.

Attorney Savannah Fletcher, representing Kowalke, said she intends to request a preliminary injunction seeking to have Eastman removed as a candidate in this year’s legislative elections due to ineligibility.

Members of the Oath Keepers, including its founder, have been charged by the federal government with seditious conspiracy linked to the Jan. 6, 2021, riots at the U.S. Capitol.

Eastman attended protests in Washington, D.C., that preceded the riots, but he has not been linked to any violent actions.

The lawsuit is similar to unsuccessful actions filed against state and federal lawmakers in other states, but those relied on federal law and the U.S. Constitution. The Alaska Constitution’s disloyalty clause has never been cited in a court challenge here. Earlier this year, state legislators questioned whether it conflicts with free-speech rights.

“I think the takeaway is, what’s our level of tolerance? What are we going to allow from our candidates or representatives? Are we going to allow full-blown communists? Jihad folks? Fascists? Particularly those that are supporting the overthrow of our government? I guess it’s time to find out,” Kowalke said.

Eastman said Monday night that he “just heard” of the lawsuit and did not offer additional comment.

“We are aware of this lawsuit but have not yet been served,” said Patty Sullivan, a spokesperson for the Alaska Department of Law, which represents the Division of Elections in legal matters.

“The Division of Elections followed the process under State law and regulations and certified Representative Eastman as a candidate in the August 16 primary,” Sullivan said.

The Alaska Constitution’s disloyalty clause states that “No person who advocates, or who aids or belongs to any party or organization or association which advocates, the overthrow by force or violence of the United States or of the State shall be qualified to hold any public office of trust or profit under this constitution.”

Earlier this year, members of the Alaska Legislature considered punishing Eastman for his membership in the Oath Keepers but ultimately took no action.

In February, the state House’s Military and Veterans Affairs Committee held informational hearings about the Oath Keepers.

Matt Kriner, a senior research scholar at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, testified during the hearings and said afterward that the difficulty for anyone attempting to disqualify Eastman is the need to establish a link between him and the Oath Keepers who have been federally charged, and the need to allow due process for the Oath Keepers who have been charged but not yet convicted.

“Pre-court case being finalized, I don’t think it meets this definition (of disloyalty),” he said.

In June, after 24 challenges, the Alaska Division of Elections upheld Eastman’s candidacy.

“DOE is aware that Representative Eastman reportedly is a member of the Oath Keepers organization and attended the rally in Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021. DOE does not have any specific information about these allegations in its possession. But even assuming these allegations are true, DOE has determined that they do not — without more — provide a basis to prevent Representative Eastman from running for state office,” said Division of Elections director Gail Fenumiai in a letter dated June 20.

Asked why he filed suit more than a month after that letter, Kowalke said it took that long for him to get organized and to decide to file.

A former Eastman supporter, he has been redistricted out of Eastman’s state House district and said he is not attempting to sway the ongoing election. If necessary, he said, he will continue his case past the election and into the next legislative session because it will remain a live argument.

“I agree it’s kind of a tight timeline,” Fletcher said, “but we know that he’s going to make it through the primary — there are fewer than four candidates in the running for his seat — so I think we still have enough time to have the courts weigh in on this before the November election.”

James Brooks is a longtime Alaska reporter, having previously worked at the Anchorage Daily News, Juneau Empire, Kodiak Mirror and Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. This article originally appeared online at alaskabeacon.com. Alaska Beacon, an affiliate of States Newsroom, is an independent, nonpartisan news organization focused on connecting Alaskans to their state government.

More in News

Alaska Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer speaks during a press conference announcing the administration’s push for changes to the state’s election system on Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021, in Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Kevin Goodman, State of Alaska)
Just 2 Alaska lieutenant governor candidates say 2020 presidential vote was fair

Alaska’s lieutenant governor will oversee the 2024 presidential election

Kenai Peninsula School District Superintendent Clayton Holland stand near the entrance to the district’s Soldotna offices on Thursday, March 17, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Academics, staff recruitment among district priorities for upcoming school year

The superintendent is ready to see KPBSD return to the district’s pre-COVID-19 academic performance

Raymond Bradbury preserves his salmon while dipnetting in the mouth of the Kenai River on Saturday, July 10, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion file)
Personal use harvest reports due Monday

Northern Kenai fishing report

Evelyn Cooley competes in the barrel race at the Kenai Peninsula Fair on Aug. 12, 2022, in Ninilchik, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Music, magic, daredevils and pigs

Kenai Peninsula Fair brings an assortment of activities to Ninilchik

Signs direct voters at the Kenai No. 3 precinct on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion file)
Signs direct voters at the Kenai No. 3 precinct for Election Day on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Local candidates report support from state PACs

Labor unions and the National Education Association are among the groups putting money into Kenai Peninsula state election races

Signs and examples on the recycling super sack at the Cook Inletkeeper Community Action Studio show which plastics are desired as part of the project in Soldotna, Alaska, on Aug. 11, 2022. Plastics from types 1, 2, 4 and 5 can be deposited.(Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Local nonprofit accepting plastics for synthetic lumber project

The super sack receptacles can be found on either side of Soldotna

This July 28, 2022, photo shows drag queen Dela Rosa performing in a mock election at Cafecito Bonito in Anchorage, Alaska, where people ranked the performances by drag performers. Several organizations are using different methods to teach Alaskans about ranked choice voting, which will be used in the upcoming special U.S. House election. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)
Groups get creative to help Alaska voters with ranked voting

Organizations have gotten creative in trying to help voters understand how to cast their ballot, as the mock election featuring drag performers shows

A school bus outside of Kenai Central High School advertises driver positions on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Staff shortage, gas prices change school bus routes

The changes do not apply to the district’s special education students

The cast of “Tarzan” rides the Triumvirate Theatre float during the Independence Day parade in downtown Kenai, Alaska on Monday, July 4, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
The show goes on as Triumvirate seeks funding for new theater

The troupe has staged shows and events and is looking to debut a documentary as it raise funds for new playhouse

Most Read