It’s 8 a.m. and David Eastman is winding his way up the dark corridor of the Parks Highway toward Talkeetna, going against morning inbound commute.
It’s a drive he will make dozens of times in the coming two years as he seeks to represent District 10, which is much of Wasilla and the Susitna River Drainage. The election is Nov. 8, but today, it’s all about hearing the concerns and ideas of people in the northern part of his district.
Going against traffic has been Eastman’s way for years, as a conservative working to elect Ron Paul as president in 2012, or even at West Point, where he raised concerns about aspects of the curriculum that were at odds with Army values: “They brought in a guest speaker who claimed to be a gay cannibal, for instance. It was supposed to shock all us uber-conservative students.”
Eastman was born in Redwood City, California, and grew up in Orange County. Homeschooled, and private schooled, he decided at an early age that he wanted to live in Alaska.
But it wasn’t until he completed West Point and joined the Army that he finally achieved the dream that started when he was six years old.
“There were two slots open for military police in Alaska, and I got one of them,” he says. That was around Thanksgiving in 2003, after he’d been through the Army’s police officer training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.
Political life came easily to Eastman, whose Christian conservative upbringing included getting involved with Republican politics in high school and learning from his parents, who served on the board of Right to Life of Southern California.
He became the youngest delegate to the Republican National Convention in San Diego in 1996. Although at 15 he was a year younger than the cutoff age, the RNC accepted Eastman because “they liked my essay about how awesome Bob Dole was,” he explained.
His parents also encouraged him to go into business, which he did as early as age 6, when he opened up a refreshment stand out of his wagon at the local ball fields. He sold candy and soft drinks, and later went door-to-door selling Christmas cards.
“I never had to ask for money until I ran for office,” Eastman said.
In 2009, as he was leaving active duty and joining the reserve side of the Army, Eastman was accepted for a Summit Oxford fellowship, which allowed him to study in Oxford, England for a semester, where he focused on legal studies to complement his undergraduate work at West Point.
His resume item on Summit Oxford has become fodder for the Democrats who oppose him, but he counts his time studying in England as profoundly important to the development of his critical thinking skills. He was able to sit as a moot court judge for Oxford law students on more than one occasion.
Eastman made at try for pulic office first in 2012 after applying to Gov. Sean Parnell to fill Carl Gatto’s vacant seat. Gatto died while in office in April of that year.
Ultimately, Shelley Hughes was appointed, but Eastman ran for an open Senate seat after that, and he and three others lost to Sen. Click Bishop. With redistricting, he is now in Sen. Mike Dunleavy’s district.
“I always had it in mind to try again.” In 2016, now married to Jennifer and the father of two young children, he ran against Republican Rep. Wes Keller in District 10, and won the primary, vowing to bring fresh energy and strong conservative values to Juneau.
The sun was almost rising as Eastman rolled into Talkeetena to meet with people he hopes to represent. He knows he will be one of the more conservative voices in Juneau come January, and that Talkeetna will be one of the more liberal areas of his region.
But that’s OK with Eastman – he’s used to setting his own compass, driving north while others are heading south. And he’s well accustomed to the role of going against the conventional wisdom of politics.