David Eastman charts his own course.
He’s on a different tack from other Republicans in the state House, where he represents Wasilla.
He’s known for speaking his mind on the floor of the House and irritating his colleagues, and at times disrupting proceedings, critics say.
Republican House Minority leaders sent Eastman to the woodshed recently, stripping him of his two committee assignments. Eastman had been on the Rules and Judiciary committees, both important assignments.
Now he is on no committees.
“In a month he’ll be allowed to rejoin the Republican caucus and attend committee meetings again. Whether he will get his committees back is up to him. It will depend on his relationships, “with other Republican members of the House, said House Minority Leader Lance Pruitt, R-Anch. “It all depends on him. He sets the tone on when he’d like to return.”
House Republicans also hold Eastman responsible for the paralysis in organizing the House in 2018 when Republicans had a slight one-vote majority margin in the 40-member House. Rep. Gary Knopf,(R-Kenai) refused to join a Republican organization that included Eastman because Wasilla legislator’s “no” votes on virtually every bill would make it impossible to pass a budget, which would result in a government shutdown.
Eventually several House Republicans crossed over to join with Demovcrats in forming the present Majority coalition led by Speaker Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham.
Eastman was not available to comment on remarks by Pruitt and others.
Eastman is now in his second term but also achieved notoriety in his first term in voting “no” on almost every bill and engaging in protracted debate and procedural motions that frequently delayed business in the House.
Rep. Mark Neuman, R-Big Lake, a fellow Republican in the Mat-Su delegation in he House, said he doesn’t agree with Eastman’s tactics but he defends his right to speak on the House floor.
“I stood up for David many times when the Speaker (Edgmon) tried to shut him up,” Neuman said. Any legislator has a legal right to voice his or her opinions, and Neuman took strong exception to Edgmon’s rulings on the floor to limit Eastman’s remarks, which were extensive most of the time.
Eastman has other defenders, too.
Ross Bieling, an Anchorage resident and fellow conservative, and also Republican, who has run for the state House, said he believes Eastman is deeply principled and has strong feelings for what’s right. “He’s got a big heart for Alaska,” Bieling said.
He also has strict views on religion and abortion and he views state business through those prisms, he said.
Pruitt said he hopes Eastman changes course and becomes more cooperative. “This (Republican) caucus is very forgiving. We accepted Tammy (Wilson, Republican from North Pole) back after she joined the House Majority coalition (with Demovcrats),” Pruitt said.
Republicans are even willing to accept Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, an Anchorage Republican House member back into the fold after she split off and joined House Democrats in a coalition in the last Legislature.
Bieling said Eastman’s weakness is that his thinking appears too rigid, which may come from his military background,
Because of that rigidity Eastman may be a kind of fish out of the water in the Legislature, where discussion and compromise is required to allow things to get done, Bieling said.
Others are less charitable, including Eastman’s fellow Republicans in the House who shared their views in confidence. “Basically he’s grandstanding on the floor, playing to a core group of very conservative and active Republicans in his district, a veteran Anchorage Republican lawmaker said.
This view of Eastman was reinforced among colleagues who pointed out that many of his amendments he was offering on the floor, and which delayed proceedings, were in fact legally defective. “He just blew it off. He said he doesn’t care,” the legislator said who had pointed out problems with the amendment.
An irritant among Eastman’s colleagues is that the procedural delays costs money. “When you tie things up you add to peoples’ work, and that is expensive,” the legislator said.
Another lawmaker said, “He (Eastman) wants attention because he has aspirations of running statewide,” appealing to a certain constituency,” the legislator said.
“His supporters are people who are just not happy with government at any level. They just want to tear things down,” said another Republican lawmaker, who also happens to be from Mat-Su.
Whatever critics say, Eastman’s background speaks to his conservative leaning
He studied law at West Point, and after graduating was given his first choice of military assignments at Fort Richradson, where he served as a captain in military police from 2003-2011. According to his resume he prepared soldiers for deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and led troops himself in Afghanistan deployments himself.
He served as Provost Marshal of Camp Eggers, in Kabul, was appointed as a military summary court martial judge. Eastman is the first member of his family ever to serve in elected office.
Active in community service, Eastman was chosen as an Alaska state volunteer of the year by First Lady Sandy Parnell in 2010, his resume says. He is currently a Mat-Su Firefighter/EMT and a member of the Mat-Su Water Rescue and Hazmat Teams. He lives in Wasilla with his wife Jennifer and their two daughters.