Alaska Republican state Rep. David Eastman, standing, speaks on the House floor on Friday, Feb. 4, 2022, in Juneau. A Superior Court judge on Friday denied a request by Eastman to dismiss the lawsuit filed by a man who challenged Eastman’s candidacy for office based on Eastman’s ties to the Oath Keepers. (AP Photo / Becky Bohrer)

Alaska Republican state Rep. David Eastman, standing, speaks on the House floor on Friday, Feb. 4, 2022, in Juneau. A Superior Court judge on Friday denied a request by Eastman to dismiss the lawsuit filed by a man who challenged Eastman’s candidacy for office based on Eastman’s ties to the Oath Keepers. (AP Photo / Becky Bohrer)

Case against state lawmaker with Oath Keepers ties moves to trial

Trial is slated to begin Monday.

A state court judge on Friday allowed to move to trial a lawsuit alleging that an Alaska lawmaker’s ties to the far-right Oath Keepers group disqualifies him from holding office.

Superior Court Judge Jack McKenna denied a request by Republican Rep. David Eastman to dismiss the lawsuit filed by Randall Kowalke, who was among the individuals who earlier this year filed challenges to Eastman’s candidacy with the Division of Elections. The division determined that Eastman, a Wasilla Republican, was eligible to run for reelection, but Kowalke’s attorneys argue the division failed to investigate Eastman’s eligibility under the so-called disloyalty clause of the state constitution.

Kowalke’s lawsuit pointed to a provision of the constitution that states that no one who “advocates, or who aids or belongs to any party or organization or association which advocates, the overthrow by force or violence of the government of the United States or of the State shall be qualified to hold” public office.

McKenna, in one of several orders Friday, said he interprets the clause as applying “only to unprotected association, speech and conduct” and would view the matter through that lens. Trial is slated to begin Monday.

McKenna said Kowalke must show that the Oath Keepers “are an organization that advocates concrete action to overthrow the government of the United States by force or that they have actually engaged in such conduct.”

Eastman won his race last month. McKenna previously ordered that certification of the race be delayed pending trial and further order from the court.

McKenna said Friday that a trial is necessary to resolve Kowalke’s claim against Eastman and to determine whether the division’s response to Kowalke’s challenge of Eastman’s candidacy was proper.

A founder of the Oath Keepers, Stewart Rhodes, was convicted last month of seditious conspiracy related to the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Eastman has said he was in Washington, D.C., that day but did not take part in the riot. Eastman has not been accused of any crimes.

McKenna said he has been presented with arguments urging him to consider whether barring someone from office under the clause is wise and to consider the effect of applying the provision.

But McKenna said it is not his place to “decide on the wisdom” of the constitutional provision or to make policy.

“Instead, when a claim is filed implicating constitutional and statutory provisions, the court must interpret and apply the Alaska Constitution as it was drafted by its framers and ratified by the people of this state,” he wrote. “The court must also interpret and apply the statutes passed by the legislature and signed into law by the executive.”

More in News

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Aurora forecast for the week of April 8

These forecasts are courtesy of the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute… Continue reading

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Friday, April 12, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Thursday, April 11, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

The sky and mountains are reflected in the water on April 5, 2012, at the Kootznoowoo Wilderness in the Tongass National Forest’s Admiralty Island National Monument. Conservation organizations bought some private land and transferred it to the U.S. Forest Service, resulting in an incremental expansion of the Kootznoowoo Wilderness and protection of habitat important to salmon and wildlife. (Photo by Don MacDougall/U.S. Forest Service)
Conservation groups’ purchase preserves additional land in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest

A designated wilderness area in Southeast Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, the largest… Continue reading

A welcome sign is shown Sept. 22, 2021, in Tok. President Joe Biden won Alaska’s nominating contest on Saturday. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
Biden wins more delegates in Alaska and Wyoming as he heads toward Democratic nomination

President Joe Biden nudged further ahead in the Democratic nomination for reelection… Continue reading

Juneau Assembly members and other visitors examine a meeting room formerly used by the nine-member Alaska State Board of Education and Early Development on Monday, April 8, which is about 25% larger than the Assembly Chambers at City Hall. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Of three possible new City Hall buildings, one stands out — but plenty of proposed uses for other two

Michael J. Burns Building eyed as city HQ; childcare, animal shelter among options at school sites.

Senate President Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, speaks to members of the Senate majority caucus’ leadership group on Friday. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Schools, university and projects across Alaska are set to receive money from new budget bill

Alaska Senate sends draft capital budget to House as work continues on a state spending plan

The Boney Courthouse in downtown Anchorage, across the street from the larger Nesbett Courthouse, holds the Alaska Supreme Court chambers. (Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)
Alaska judge strikes down state’s cash payments to families using correspondence school programs

Decision will become a ‘hot-button legislative item’ in final weeks of session, lawmakers say.

A statue of William Henry Seward stands outside the Dimond Courthouse in downtown Juneau. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)
Juneau man convicted of sexual abuse of 15-year-old girl more than four years after incidents occur

JPD: Randy James Willard, 39, sent explicit videos to and engaged in sexual contact with victim.

Most Read