JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Alaska House Republicans have removed Rep. David Eastman from their caucus, the minority leader said Friday, citing tensions with the Wasilla Republican that have built over time.
Eastman also was removed from two committees — the House Rules Committee and as an alternate on a legislative ethics committee — during House floor votes on Friday in which he and Republican Rep. Christopher Kurka were the lone dissenters.
Eastman’s removal from the caucus and those committees came with less than three weeks left in the regular legislative session that began in January.
Minority Leader Cathy Tilton told reporters that informal polling of her caucus’ members showed more than two thirds of them agreed to Eastman’s removal from the group. The caucus had 18 members before his removal.
Tilton, also a Wasilla Republican, said Eastman’s actions have “caused disruption and threaten the cohesion of the caucus.”
She said he has become more of a “distraction” from the caucus’ ability to advance its policy agenda.
Tilton said Eastman can represent his constituents in any manner he deems appropriate. She said she could not point to any one incident that prompted the action to remove him from the caucus but said there was a “buildup of things over time.”
Eastman’s style has at times alienated and frustrated members of his own party, some of whom said his unpredictability had cost Republicans a shot at organizing a majority to control the House in 2019 and 2020 and had campaigned for Eastman’s Republican primary challenger in 2020.
Eastman did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment on his removal from caucus.
On the House floor, he asked for an explanation for why he was being removed from the caucus and from committees.
Tilton said the caucus had a discussion during which Eastman had the opportunity to address colleagues.
Republican Rep. Kevin McCabe of Big Lake said Eastman was “well aware” of the reasons and dismissed any suggestion that it was about specific votes, noting caucus members can vote however they choose.
Kurka said he condemned the efforts to remove Eastman from committees, calling the process unfair.
A meeting Friday by the panel that handles committee assignments was not publicly noticed in advance online.
Eastman retained his membership on other committees.
Eastman, in a floor speech, said it is important for caucus members and constituents to know “what are the lines that we are drawing.”
“So I again ask the question, why was I punished today by removal from the caucus?” he said, adding later: “If we’re going to draw the line and say that the line is here and you have to meet this requirement, I think it’s important and fair not just that members know … but also that the public knows.”
Tilton told reporters that minority Republicans put their “political capital” behind Eastman earlier in the session when there was an attempt to remove him from committees over his affiliation with the far-right organization Oath Keepers.
A leader of the Oath Keepers and other members or associates have been charged with seditious conspiracy related to the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Eastman has said he did not condone the storming of the Capitol.
Tilton and Rep. Laddie Shaw, the minority members on the panel that deals with committee assignments, voted against a proposal to strip Eastman’s assignments over the Oath Keepers affiliation. The matter, when brought to the House floor, was tabled and never brought to a vote.
Tilton at that time said it was a “slippery slope” for the Legislature to make determinations about a person’s involvement in an organization.
Shaw said he didn’t think it was a mistake to stand by Eastman during that debate.