Rep. Eastman remains on ballot but could be disqualified after election

    Rep. David Eastman

    Juneau, Alaska (Alaska Beacon) - The Alaska Constitution’s "disloyalty clause" will be tested in a Dec. 12 trial.

    An Anchorage Superior Court Judge ruled Thursday that Wasilla Republican Rep. David Eastman is likely ineligible for public office but ordered that he remain on the state’s Nov. 8 election ballots, pending the result of a trial in December.

    Eastman is heavily favored in the general election, but if he wins in November and the trial concludes that his membership in a far-right organization is a violation of the Alaska Constitution’s “disloyalty clause,” the second-place finisher would take his position in the Alaska Legislature. If he loses in November, the case is moot.

    Whether December’s verdict falls against Eastman or in his favor, attorneys involved in the case say they believe it will be appealed and will not be final.

    Thursday’s order is the result of a lawsuit filed by former Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly member Randall Kowalke against Eastman and the Alaska Division of Elections. Kowalke challenged Eastman’s eligibility and sought a preliminary injunction removing him entirely from the ballot.

    Judge Jack McKenna declined to remove Eastman from the ballot but instead told the Division of Elections to delay certifying the result of the Nov. 8 election in Eastman’s district until after December’s trial.

    McKenna’s decision is based on a legal standard that requires a plaintiff to demonstrate a “clear probability of success” at trial in order to receive a pretrial preliminary injunction.

    “This situation is unprecedented and the court must attempt to balance the competing rights and interests implicated by this litigation. Among the options available, the relief prescribed in this Order most appropriately maintains the status quo, protects the rights of the parties, and allows for the voters in House District 27 to select their representative regardless of the specific outcome of this litigation,” he said.

    Joe Miller, the attorney representing David Eastman, did not return a message left at his office seeking comment. The Alaska Department of Law, which represents the Division of Elections, also did not comment before 7:30 p.m. Thursday evening.

    Attorney Savannah Fletcher represents Kowalke and said her client was “thrilled” by the outcome, even though Eastman remains on the ballot.

    “We think this is a very elegant solution. I was just on the phone with my client, and he was really thrilled with this decision,” Fletcher said, explaining that Kowalke does not want to disenfranchise voters.

    “Ranked -choice voting does allow for this accommodation,” she said of McKenna’s order.

    Under Alaska’s ranked -choice voting system, voters may pick second, third or fourth options for a given office, depending on the number of candidates.

    If Eastman is disqualified in December, voters who pick him first will instead have their votes go to their second choice.

    If Eastman is certified the winner but later disqualified, the governor in office at the time would pick a replacement. Attorneys representing the Alaska Division of Elections had argued that would disenfranchise voters.

    McKenna’s decision sidesteps the problem by delaying certification until after the trial, which begins Dec. 12. He acknowledged in Thursday’s order that there will be a short timeline for appeals between the post-trial verdict and the start of the legislative session in January.

    Kowalke’s case is based on the Alaska Constitution’s disloyalty clause, which states: “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.”

    Members of the Oath Keepers, including the group’s founder, have been accused of various crimes associated with the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Several have pleaded guilty and are cooperating with federal prosecutors.

    Eastman has said he paid for a lifetime membership in the group in 2009. Kowalke argues that membership is still active and that the Oath Keepers have sought to overthrow the US government by force.

    Read the complete story here.

    More from News of the North

    • Jeanne Bitz's story — healing through Hawai'i

      Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - Jeanne Bitz is a painter and sculptor in Maui, Hawai'i.

    • Alaska Athletes Will Push Their Limits in IRONMAN Alaska

      Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - On Sunday one of the hardest athletic events around the world will begin on the shores of Auke Lake in Juneau with a cannon blast that will signify the first official full IRONMAN race in Alaska.

    • Juneau Skating Club Spring Show a Musical Ice Delight

      Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - If you don’t have a ticket to today’s Juneau Skating Club Spring Show at Treadwell Ice Arena then pay at the door or beg to get in as this is a show you will not want to miss!

    • Crimson Bears & Falcons Go Purple to Raise Suicide Awareness & Prevention

      Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - The Juneau-Douglas High School: Kalé and Thunder Mountain High School basketball teams, coaches, cheerleaders and officials will wear purple during their games tonight and Saturday night at the JDHS gym to raise awareness for mental health, suicide prevention and positive messaging for young adults and community members.

    • Pep Band Spices Up Local Sports

      Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - It takes something special to supplement a high caliber activity without taking away from that activity and that challenge has been met every basketball season by the pep bands of Thunder Mountain High School and Juneau-Douglas High School: Kalé.

    • Photos: Perseverance Trail Landslide

      The recent avalanche and landslide activity in the Basin Road and Perseverance Trailhead area is shown in these photos from KINY.

    • Crimson Bears Butt Heads with Moose on Ice

      Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - The Juneau-Douglas High School Kalé Crimson Bears hockey team fell by the score of 4-2 to the Palmer Moose on Monday night at Treadwell Arena in a spirited and physical Railbelt Conference battle around the rink.

    • Juneau's High School Hoopsters and Skaters Can Unmask

      The Juneau School District is allowing their high school basketball and hockey players to play unmasked if certain testing requirements are met. Juneau School District Superintendent Bridget Weiss noted that the change only applies to players who are actively participating in one of the two sports and that coaches and athletes seated on the bench still have to wear face coverings.

    • First Things First Alaska

      The First Things First Alaska Foundation wrote in May 2020 that "the Alaska Roadless Rule hinders Southeast Alaska's economic recovery.

    • Angoon Woman Walks Her Way to a Healthier Life

      Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - Angoon’s Betty Samato likes to walk. A lot. She has traveled on foot more than 7,000 miles in just over a year and much more since the coronavirus pandemic first began spreading through her home community.

    • Frawley Finish Anchors Crimson Bears Relay Title

      Anchorage, Alaska (KINY) - In the final leg of his final race as a high school senior, in the last event of the 2021 State Swimming & Diving Championship at Bartlett High School, Juneau-Douglas Kalé senior Tytan Frawley touched the pool wall to clinch the state championship for the Crimson Bears boys' 400 yard relay. A few lanes down, Kodiak’s Jackson Krug also stretched to the finish with the identical time.

    • Seward’s Jacoby, Thunder Mountain’s Foy Top Swimmers at State Meet

      Anchorage, Alaska (KINY) - Seward senior Lydia Jacoby and Thunder Mountain High School sophomore Patrick Foy were named the outstanding female and male swimmers at Saturday’s 2021 State Swimming & Diving Championship at Bartlett High School.

    Crude Oil Price

    Current Conditions