VALLEY LEGISLATOR REMOVED FROM COMMITTEES
The House Republicans, a 16-member minority, may get smaller still. The team of conservative rivals appear ready to put one of their more difficult members into the time-out corner.
Rep. David Eastman, who is an “in-name-only” member of the Republican Minority, is a conservative lawmaker from Wasilla who goes his own way more often than not, and is also full of surprises. He tends to vote no when his fellow Republicans vote yes, and often votes yes when they vote no.
But it’s not his votes that have gotten him cross-threaded with the Republican Minority.
When the Republicans organized in late 2018, they were a fragile majority of 21. During the announcement of their organization, Eastman sat it out in an adjacent room, refusing to join the rest of the Republicans. That left 20 in front of the microphone.
That fragile majority with Eastman led to the House being taken over by a Democrat-led coalition, which has ruled the roost ever since. It was a coup orchestrated by Republican Reps. Gary Knopp, Louise Stutes, Tammie Wilson, Gabrielle LeDoux, Jennifer Johnston, and Chuck Kopp, all who decided that Eastman would end up with too much power and would always destroy the bare Republican Majority because of that number: 21.
The defectors joined with the Democrats and were rewarded with powerful seats. That bipartisan group has held together, even after two Republicans defected.
House Minority Leader Lance Pruitt has been in the role of trying to keep the minority together with Eastman. Pruitt’s”big tent” strategy was to not alienate the most argumentative member of the minority, but to try to work with him and keep him on the team.
Until last week, that is. Eastman was on the nerves of every member of the House, it appeared, and was on the verge of being removed from the House Chambers after refusing to sit down during a floor session, a violation of decorum.
He had further alienated members of his minority caucus by bringing forth an “ambush” bill that forced everyone to take a surprise vote on an abortion issue.
That lack of consultation with his fellow Republican team members has been part of the problem between him and the rest of the caucus, which typically has stuck together as a solid conservative bloc.
Committee on Committees met on Wednesday evening and removed Eastman from his seats on Judiciary and Rules committees. That reorganization will be up for approval on the floor today. The vote will likely be close to unanimous, Must Read Alaska has learned.
Pruitt has dealt with other rogue members before. When former Rep. Tammie Wilson left the minority caucus and joined the Democrat-led majority, Pruitt kept the door kicked open for her eventual return last year. She finally did split from the Democrat-led caucus and returned to the Republicans before resigning from the Legislature this year.
Pruitt also left the door open for rogue member Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, who joined with the Democrats to flip the House in 2018, and eventually left that group. She did not return to the Republican minority.
“The door is still open for David. It’s on David to establish the relationships and show that he wants to be a willing member of a team,” Pruitt said.