By Associated Press - Wednesday, July 29, 2020

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Several Alaska Republican lawmakers have campaigned against fellow GOP state Rep. David Eastman, who they blame for the failure of Republicans to take control of the state’s House of Representatives in 2018.

Members of the House Republican minority campaigned over the weekend in Eastman’s Wasilla district for his GOP primary opponent, The Anchorage Daily News reported Monday.

The group went door-to-door trying to generate support for challenger Jesse Sumner in the Aug. 18 primary.

The Republican campaigners included Reps. Laddie Shaw, Sara Rasmussen and Mel Gillis of Anchorage, Kelly Merrick of Eagle River and Cathy Tilton of Wasilla.

Retiring Rep. Colleen Sullivan-Leonard of Wasilla and Rep. George Rauscher of Sutton also support Sumner.

“David Eastman has been working against his own people, and he’s been doing it for the past two years,” Shaw said. “We want somebody to come in with an open mind and an open heart and be part of the team.”

Tilton said Eastman was a key factor in the Republican failure to assert control over the House after the 2018 election, when 23 GOP lawmakers were elected to the 40-member body.

Soon after the election, 21 Republicans said they would form a majority. Eastman was among them, but said he would not promise his vote for Speaker of the House without preconditions.

Without a firm Republican majority, some party members joined Democrats and independents to form a coalition majority.

“We had the opportunity to be a majority. We had the numbers,” Tilton said. “There were other things afoot, but the predictability of Rep. David Eastman played into the hands of others, and they were able to use that as their excuse.”

In two legislative sessions that followed, Eastman criticized his fellow Republicans on a variety of issues.

The House Republican minority put Eastman on what they called “probation” in March, with Minority Leader Lance Pruitt of Anchorage saying Matanuska-Susitna Republicans should reconsider who they want to represent them.

Eastman defended his positions in a text message.

“It is ironic that the one elected legislator with a 100% Conservative voting record, and the one legislator who most consistently opposed the Democrat takeover of the State House, is also the one legislator that Anchorage legislators are now campaigning against by knocking on doors in the Mat-Su,” Eastman said.

He added: “That’s a square peg trying to go into a round hole if I ever saw one.”

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