Graybill stumps in Chinook in AG Race

Havre Daily News

February 4, 2020

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock's chief legal counsel Raph Graybill of Helena, who is running as a Democratic candidate in the state attorney general race, spoke in Chinook Monday about his campaign and some of the issues facing Montana.

"Right now, we have an attorney general that, often times, when the stakes are highest, won't get involved and won't go to court to fight for us, and as I look at the attorney general's job, the most important thing the attorney general can do as our lawyer, as the people's lawyer, is to go fight for us when the stakes are highest," Graybill told people at the fundraiser.

Republican Montana Attorney General Tim Fox, who cannot run for that office due to term limits, filed as a candidate for governor Friday.

Since Fox announced his campaign for governor, a number of people have announced their candidacy for the office of Attorney General.

On the Democratic side of the ticket, state Rep. Kim Dudik, D-Missoula, has also filed as a candidate in the race.

Republican Chief Deputy Attorney General Jon Bennion and former Speaker of the House Austin Knudsen, R-Culbertson, have filed in the race.

Graybill said that a number of cases he has worked on since becoming chief legal council for the governor were cases which should have been fought by Fox and the current Attorney General's Office, such as Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, which is fighting a Montana Supreme Court ruling that tax credits cannot be given for donations to private schools; a lawsuit between several state offices and e-cigarette shops, and a lawsuit regarding dark money in 2018 where Bullock sued the Trump Administration.

Graybill said he is a fifth-generation Montanan, growing up in Great Falls, and has worked for the state legal system for a number of years. He added that it is critically important that the Attorney General's Office fights for Montanans and fights to protect the state's constitution.

In the Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue case, he said, people are allowed to choose to go to a private school to receive their education in Montana, but public school funding is for public schools and the state's constitution says that it is prohibited from providing public tax funds, directly or indirectly, to a private religious school.

"That would be bad for religion because it would influence religion from the start, and that would be bad for public schools because it takes their money away," Graybill said.

He added that a group from Virginia called the Institute for Justice sued the state of Montana because it prohibited funding private religious schools and the attorney general decided to not defend in the case.

A similar thing can be said for the state's lawsuits involving dark money and vaping, he said.

Graybill said in an interview that the Attorney General's Office is separate from the governor's office. The attorney general is the chief legal council for the state and has the authority to defend the state in a number of cases. The Attorney General's Office also has the authority to pass on a case and let the case go to different agencies overseen by the governor, Graybill added, and that is when he, as Bullock's chief legal council, can get involved.