Graybill, Knudsen face off in attorney general race
The Havre Daily News
October 5, 2020
Democrat Governor's Counsel Raph Graybill faces Republican candidate Roosevelt County Attorney and former Speaker of the House Austin Knudsen for attorney general in the general election.
Graybill successfully argued last month against a lawsuit The Republican National Committee, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Montana Republican State Central Committee and Donald J. Trump for President Inc. filed against Montana Gov. Steve Bullock for his Aug. 6 directive allowing counties in the state to decide whether to allow mail-in voting for the 2020 general election, which the filers of the lawsuit called an unconstitutional power grab and claiming it invites fraud and threatens the security of the election and by extension threatens the right to vote for Montanans.
Bullock's directive said that concern of the spread of COVID-19 at election polls was the reason for the directive to allow people to vote by mail, which also requires election officials to provide a polling place for people who prefer to vote in person.
Federal District Judge Dana Christensen in his ruling against the lawsuit last week called Republican claims of fraud 'a fiction' and also ruled that the directive was legal.
Graybill said using mail-in voting is a no brainer.
"It's a safe, secure means to live out the most
important democratic right we have, which is voting," he said. "We saw in the primary that Montana was able to vote safely. It was completely secure and nobody got sick because of it."
He thinks nobody should have to choose between their right to vote and their personal safety, he said.
He also thinks that Montana took a really aggressive initial attack in handling COVID-19, he said, adding that resulted in one of the lower infection rates per capita in the country.
"I really commend Montanan's first responders, doctors and nurses for stepping up," Graybill said. "I favor policies that are based on science, based on medical evidence, and I will trust and stand with our doctors and nurse when it comes to COVID policy in keeping Montana safe."
In the Attorney General's Office, he said, the focus needs to be reintegrated into protecting Montana consumers.
He said he will lead a new effort to crack down on illegal price gouging on prescription drugs - that is a top priority of his.
"We are all paying too much for prescriptions and many times that is because of illegal activity by drug corporations," Graybill said. "The attorney general can investigate and stop it."
The biggest issue facing the Attorney General's Office is health care, he said.
Right now, a lawsuit filed by Republican attorneys general is before the Supreme Court that would eliminate the Affordable Care Act, he said, adding that it is the state attorneys general who are arguing on both sides.
He said his opponent, Austin Knudsen, said one of the reasons he ran for office was to join that lawsuit that would rip away health care.
"The reason that is such a big issue is if that health care lawsuit succeeds we will lose 10,000 jobs in Montana, we lose our rural hospitals, we'll lose over a billion dollars in the economic activity - it would be an outright disaster for Montana," Graybill said. "That is the biggest issue facing this attorney general.
"My opponent says he is running to support it, I'm running to stop it," he added.
The other big issue facing the Attorney General's Office is getting a handle on the substance abuse problem in Montana, he said.
His opponent talks about his solution, but Knudsen's solution is defunding the Montana Department of Justice, Graybill said.
"That's crazy," Graybill said. "If you defund the Montana Department of Justice you will shift all of the burdens onto local law enforcement, who are already being asked to do so much, and it will make their jobs much harder."
If one is serious about taking on meth in Montana, he said, one has to be talking about three things.
"Enforcement. We should be supporting the Department of Justice and their drug enforcement operations, not defund," he said.
"Treatment. If you arrest somebody who is addicted to meth, for example and put them in for some time, and they get out and they are still addicted to meth you haven't really solved that problem. We have to be serious about treatment," he continued.
"Prevention. The attorney general can have a real role there making sure that we build resilience in communities and keep people away from substance abuse," he said. "You aren't talking about all three of those I don't think you're serious about solving the drug epidemic in Montana," he added.
He said he is the best candidate because he is the only one talking about all three of those solutions.
"I'm the only one who has actually worked alongside law enforcement," Graybill said. "I was an auxiliary police officer in the New York City Police Department, I know what it is like to put on a vest, a badge and walk a beat. I'm ready on Day One to take on the challenges of this job."
He said he has argued in the U.S. Supreme Court, he has fought there for Montana values - that's what this job is about.
He thinks someone who's only career is being a state legislator has a lot to learn, he added.
"We released a plan to have the attorney general provide leadership on public lands and public access," Graybill said. "The reason that I got into this race was actually going to the Montana Supreme Court to fight for public lands and public access. That's really important to me. I'm a new dad, it's important to me to be able to go teach my daughter how to fish on the same public access that my dad taught me when I was a kid and my opponent every step of the way has done things to vote against our stream access law, vote against the habitat Montana program.
"He is even blocking a group of veterans in his hometown from accessing their land, so I think there's a real difference on the issue of public lands and who's going to fight for them," he added. "I think that's a big issue in this race, and I just can't underscore enough how important this health care lawsuit is."