Eastman trial to advance, focus on whether Oath Keepers advocate concrete overthrow of government

Rep. David Eastman speaking on the Alaska House floor
Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, speaks on the floor of the Alaska House of Representatives on Monday, May 2, 2022 at the Alaska State Capitol in Juneau. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)

A trial on whether Wasilla Republican Rep. David Eastman is eligible for state office is set to begin on Monday, after a judge ruled on Friday against attempts by him and the state Division of Elections to dismiss the case.

The trial will focus on whether the Oath Keepers advocate the forceful overthrow of the U.S. government by “concrete” action, Anchorage Superior Court Judge Jack McKenna ruled.

Randall Kowalke sued to have Eastman ruled ineligible for violating the disloyalty clause of the Alaska Constitution. Eastman is reportedly a lifetime member of the Oath Keepers.

Eastman had argued that only the Legislature could determine whether he is eligible for office and that Kowalke didn’t have standing to challenge Eastman’s eligibility. McKenna ruled against Eastman on both issues, finding that the Legislature has given both the administration and the courts a role in elections and that state law allows anyone to challenge a candidate’s eligibility.

McKenna wrote that he will interpret the disloyalty clause of the state constitution in light of the protections included in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. That means Kowalke will have to prove not only whether the Oath Keepers advocate the overthrow of the U.S. government, but also that they advocate or have taken concrete actions to overthrow it.

Kowalke argued that the Division of Elections should have ruled Eastman ineligible. The division said it shouldn’t be subject to a trial because it followed its regulations in not disqualifying Eastman.

McKenna ruled that state law requires the division to determine whether candidates for public office are eligible under the federal and state constitutions, as well as state law. So the division will also face trial.

This story originally appeared in the Alaska Beacon and is republished here with permission.

Alaska Beacon

Alaska Beacon is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Alaska Beacon maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Andrew Kitchenman for questions: info@alaskabeacon.com. Follow Alaska Beacon on Facebook and Twitter.

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