Man who challenged Alaska lawmaker eligibility won’t appeal

David Eastman
Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, speaks on the floor of the Alaska House of Representatives on Monday, May 2, 2022 at the Alaska State Capitol in Juneau. (James Brooks / Alaska Beacon)

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The man who unsuccessfully challenged Alaska state Rep. David Eastman’s eligibility to hold office — over Eastman’s membership in the far-right Oath Keepers group — does not plan to file an appeal.

In a court filing Tuesday, Goriune Dudukgian, an attorney for Randall Kowalke, said he does not intend to appeal the decision from Superior Court Judge Jack McKenna that found Eastman, a Wasilla Republican, is not disqualified from holding office. McKenna had stayed his order pending a possible appeal.

Kowalke was among the individuals who filed challenges last year to Eastman’s candidacy with the state Division of Elections. The agency had determined that Eastman was eligible to run for reelection, and Kowalke sued. His attorneys argued that the division failed to investigate Eastman’s eligibility under the so-called disloyalty clause of the state constitution.

Last month, McKenna found that while Eastman is a member of the Oath Keepers, he “does not and did not possess a specific intent to further the Oath Keepers’ words or actions aimed at overthrowing the United States government.”

Dudukgian said in an interview with The Associated Press that McKenna’s decision came down to a finding about Eastman’s intent, which he said would be “very difficult or impossible to get overturned on appeal.”

Dudukgian said Kowalke’s side was also mindful that nationwide, only a small number of cases have been filed challenging eligibility to serve in office related to the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection, and “we didn’t want to create that law or make it difficult for future challenges.”

Kowalke’s lawsuit pointed to a provision of the Alaska 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.

The Division of Elections, which was a defendant in the case, was “still evaluating how it will respond to the decision and what its next steps will be,” said Patty Sullivan, a spokesperson with the state Department of Law, which represented the division in the lawsuit.

Nationally, Oath Keepers founder 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. Rhodes was called by Eastman’s attorney, Joe Miller, to testify on Eastman’s behalf.

Eastman has said he was in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6 for a speech by then-President Donald Trump but did not participate in the riot. He has not been accused of any crimes and has not disavowed the Oath Keepers.

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