Alaska’s Own Ted Cruz Arrives On The Legislature’s First Day

 

I’ve been warning anyone who would listen… I warned members of the House Republican Minority privately. I warned anyone who reads The Midnight Sun publicly. Newly elected Rep. David Eastman is now the Ted Cruz of the Alaska Legislature, and right out of the gate on the first day of the legislative session, he proved it.

The first day of the session is usually a pretty pleasant affair. The pressures of budget negotiations and special sessions are still months off. Full-blown partisan rhetoric and arm-twisting and vote wrangling haven’t yet begun.

In the State House, where everyone is up for election every two years, members take the day to bask in the glory of their victories and invite their families into the Capitol to share in the accomplishment.

It’s a day of peace and happiness before the politics get started. Only Mat-Su Republican David Eastman didn’t get that memo.

When nominations for Speaker of the House opened, Rep. Paul Seaton rose to nominate Rep. Bryce Edgmon and moved to close nominations. This is usually little more than a procedural formality; the real vote for Speaker took place among majority members months ago.

That didn’t stop Eastman; he objected and caused a nearly ten-minute at-ease while his own caucus leadership tried to talk him out of it. Minority Floor Leader Rep. Dan Saddler and former Speaker Mike Chenault immediately surrounded Eastman to encourage him to drop it.

The State Legislature tends to get a nasty rep for partisanship, disingenuous pandering, and dirty lobbyist machinations, and much of it is well-earned, but there are also rules of civility, written and unwritten.

Legislators tend to go out of their way to protect members on both sides from outright embarrassment. As someone who has watched the proceedings from afar for many years, that can sometimes be frustrating. Sometimes I wish leaders would simply call out colleagues who abuse relocation reimbursements or loudly assault female members with sexually demeaning language or, well, this list could go on for a while, but the point is the Legislature has a code.

By needlessly objecting to closing speaker nominations, Eastman broke that code. He caused a delay, forced Edgmon to wait for his moment in the sun, and caused his caucus to have to deal with him. Eastman was stepping on Edgmon’s moment in order to say to the entire House, “hey, everyone look at me!”

Get used to it; that’s going to happen a lot this year.

Ultimately, Republican leaders talked Eastman into withdrawing his objection, and why not? He already got what he wanted.

Just for good measure, Eastman then deprived Edgmon of the honor of being unanimously elected by being the only vote against his election as Speaker.

Edgmon then took his place as the first Alaska Native House Speaker in Alaska’s history.

Why did Eastman do it?

Eastman told the Juneau Empire:

“As a candidate, I declared to voters that I would only support candidates for House leadership who are publicly committed to passage of a sustainable budget according to the ISER/Goldsmith model,” Eastman said by email later in the day. “I hope that the Speaker will come my way on this issue, but he has not yet made such a public commitment.”

Eastman disrupted the proceedings, stole the limelight for a moment, and doled out a bit of embarrassment to a fellow member just to get attention for himself and cement his position as the most entrenched ideologue in the body.

Sound familiar? It sounds an awful lot like how Sen. Ted Cruz acts on the national level, doesn’t it?

After years of dealing with Eastman in Republican circles, I can tell you, unlike most legislators, Eastman doesn’t care about the normal currency of politics: relationships. Like Cruz, he cares about getting attention and being viewed as the purest of pure conservatives.

But unlike other similarly minded legislators who have come before him, like Rep. Vic Kohring, Eastman isn’t stupid, lazy, or politically inept. He has a talent for knowing exactly where and when to strike for maximum effect. He is also smart and hard working enough to make the most of those opportunities.

I almost giggled when, after Eastman’s antics yesterday, I had three different Republicans, either elected or staffers, use the word “asshole” to describe him.

Well, I hope his caucus colleagues are prepared — I can promise you this is just the beginning.

About the Author

Casey Reynolds
Reynolds served as communications director for the Alaska Republican Party from 2008-2011. He left the Party in 2011 to host his own popular morning radio political talk show on AM750 / FM103.7 KFQD. Reynolds now runs The Midnight Sun (midnightsunak.com), crowned by the Anchorage Press as “Alaska’s best political blog.”
  • So glad for someone with principles in there. The minority should have had their own candidate, and all they really did was show their general lack of principles.

  • palmeranian

    This is exactly why I supported him. I knew he had the guts to rock the boat. I hope he rocks it hard. Enough of politics as usual

  • hellofaride

    “The Fairbanks area and Kenai were solidly for Cruz, while Trump won big in parts of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, especially around Big Lake and the northwest part of the borough, and by a smaller margin in Wasilla. Cruz carried Palmer, the Richardson Highway communities and southern parts of the Mat-Su Borough.” https://www.adn.com/politics/article/alaska-republicans-head-polls-including-one-dentist-office-super-tuesday/2016/03/02/ …and just where is Rep. David Eastman’s District? Being called the Ted Cruz of Alaska isn’t the insult the Midnight Sun intended.

  • Aaron W.

    I ought to know better than to dip my toe into a comment section, but as someone who has known David Eastman, Jr. since we were both five years old, I can’t help but speak up. Mr. Reynolds, I suggest you try spending some time with David and his family and see if you can maintain the same snark with which you wrote this article. We both know that the currency of politics-as-usual is compromise; David simply has the audacity to believe that one should act with integrity and consistency upon a grounded set of political principles. I can guarantee that his motivations carry no ounce of self-aggrandizement or attention-seeking, and if another were willing to act or to speak first, David would be glad to let another have whatever “glory” comes from being the first to stand against the status quo.

  • Deborah Holland

    So glad to see David is rocking the “Good ole boys club” boat. Keep it up David. It’s not about a homecoming and adulation for legislators. This is serious business. This is the people’s business.

  • Rob Morse

    So you’re upset that Eastman wouldn’t hide the debt? Eastman objected to corrupt business as usual. That sounds like something every legislator should do.
    The author can’t make up his mind if he want corrupt politics as usual.. or not.

  • Tony Rice

    This is exactly why Dave has much support. We just proved in a national level that we are done with business as usual. That is what we need in the state as well. By the way, Casey, this does surprise me a bit from you. You have always seemed relatively level-headed to me and to call Mr. Eastman an ‘asshole’ by citing supposed other people calling him one is classless. Alaska’s Ted Cruz? I’ll take that. Would love to have a dozen of them.