The Alaska House of Representatives removed Rep. David Eastman from its Judiciary Committee in a near-unanimous vote on Monday. The move further marginalizes one of the House’s most conservative Republicans.
The removal came as the House’s Committee on Committees approved a package of reassignments.
House Speaker Cathy Tilton, R-Wasilla, said the timing simply made sense. Eastman, also a Republican from Wasilla, belongs to neither the Republican-led majority caucus nor the largely Democratic minority caucus.
“We had an opportunity to make adjustments on the Committee on Committees report, and that is a majority seat and there was a majority member that was interested in that seat,” Tilton said.
Tilton said the move was not a response to calls last week by Eastman to hold a joint session to override Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s vetoes.
Eastman’s tenure in the House has been marked by controversy. He’s been censured by the House three times, most recently for asking in a committee meeting whether a child’s death from abuse could save the government money. Eastman argued the question was rhetorical. Eastman was also kicked out of the House minority caucus and removed from committees in 2022. Tilton, who at that time was the minority leader, said Eastman had been “disruptive.”
Eastman is also a lifetime member of the Oath Keepers, the militia group whose leader, Stewart Rhodes, is serving an 18-year federal prison sentence for organizing portions of the Jan. 6 attack. Eastman was sued – and eventually won – a case that argued he was ineligible to run for office because of his support for the Oath Keepers. Rhodes testified in Eastman’s defense at the trial.
Eastman argued on the House floor that removing him from the committee would deprive his constituents of proper representation.
“For what reason are the residents of Wasilla being punished in this report? I see if this report passes unamended that the citizens of Wasilla will be the only district in this house, frankly, or in the other body, that has a representative without a single committee to be their voice in our committee process,” Eastman said.
Eastman was replaced by Rep. Jesse Sumner, a fellow Wasilla Republican. All 39 of his colleagues voted to remove him, leaving Eastman as the lone dissenting vote. The House Judiciary Committee seat was Eastman’s only appointment to a standing committee.
The package of committee reassignments also places newly-appointed Rep. Thomas Baker, R-Kotzebue, into committee seats held by his predecessor. Rep. Josiah Patkotak, an independent who resigned last year to become mayor of the North Slope Borough.
Reps. Jennie Armstrong, D-Anchorage, and Ashley Carrick, D-Fairbanks, also traded places on other committees as a result of the vote.