Superior Court Judge Jack McKenna has turned down Rep. David Eastman’s request to toss the lawsuit challenging his qualifications to continue serving as a legislator.
On Friday, the judge released his ruling after the previous day’s hearing during which the Wasilla lawmaker argued for the dismissal.
Eastman, the lawsuit says, should not be seated as a lawmaker because he is a member of the Oath Keepers, a group of primarily former military and law enforcement personnel who are defenders of the Constitution.
The leader of Oath Keepers and another person involved in the group have been convicted of seditious conspiracy for trying to overthrow the government in the events of Jan. 6, 2021, when hundreds of Americans surged into the U.S. Capitol to disrupt the certification of the presidential election.
There are believed to be between 5,000 and 38,000 members of Oath Keepers in America, but it is a loose-knit organization. There are reportedly about 250 member of the group in Alaska.
The complainant in the lawsuit, Wasilla partisan political activist Randall Kowalke, asserts that mere membership in the group disqualifies someone from serving in the Legislature or any public office, due to the “disloyalty clause” of the state Constitution. If Kowalke succeeds in that argument, even a municipal worker could be removed from an official position, if he or she is a member of Oath Keepers.
The trial is set to begin Monday in Palmer, which is closer to where Eastman and Kowalke live. The Northern Justice Project is representing Kowalke, and Alaska attorney Joe Miller is representing Eastman. If the ruling goes against Eastman, the matter is surely headed for an appeal.
McKenna said that the disloyalty clause applies only to “unprotected association, speech, and conduct,” and that Kowalke will need to prove that the Oath Keepers are an organization not only advocating overthrow of the government by force, but that the group has in fact “engaged in such conduct.”
Eastman won his most recent race with 52.3% of the vote, with two other Republicans running against him in what is a deeply Republican part of the state.