Alaska lawmaker takes stand in case over Oath Keepers ties

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — An Alaska lawmaker took the stand Wednesday in a case alleging his ties to the far-right group Oath Keepers disqualifies him from holding office.

Republican Rep. David Eastman said he believed he remained a member of the group, saying he had not heard anything from the Oath Keepers about his membership in some time. Eastman was asked if he had made any public statements that he was resigning or renouncing his membership, to which he replied: “I have not made such a statement.”

Eastman was questioned by attorney Goriune Dudukgian, who is representing Randall Kowalke. Kowalke was among the individuals who earlier this year filed challenges to Eastman’s candidacy for the state House with the Alaska Division of Elections. The division determined that Eastman was eligible to run for reelection, but Kowalke’s attorneys have argued the division failed to investigate Eastman’s eligibility under the so-called disloyalty clause of the state constitution.

The lawsuit points 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.

Nationally, a founder of the Oath Keepers, Stewart Rhodes, and a Florida chapter leader have been convicted of seditious conspiracy related to the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol. A trial against four other Oath Keepers is underway.

Eastman has said he was in Washington, D.C., that day for a speech by then-President Donald Trump but did not take part in the riot. Eastman has not been accused of any crimes.

A post by Eastman on his website in September said that Oath Keepers “has never encouraged me to engage in violence. What they have asked is that everyone who has taken an oath to the Constitution consciously live up to that promise. I do. Some want to see that as evidence of my disloyalty to the Constitution.”

A bench trial in the case began this week. Eastman won reelection last month but the judge overseeing the case, Superior Court Judge Jack McKenna, previously ordered that certification of the race be delayed pending trial and further order from the court.