As we considered our endorsement in the Democratic primary for Attorney General, one moment in our interview with Raph Graybill kept coming to the fore: his belief that the primary role of the AG is to serve the people of Montana, working as a fierce advocate for the rights we enjoy in the Montana constitution. Graybill offers a vision for the Attorney General’s office that moves beyond the traditional focus on law and order to remake the Attorney General into a fighter for public education, privacy, consumer protection, and the environment.
Graybill, in short, wants to be the attorney for the people of Montana.
And while we would be thrilled to see either of the two excellent Democratic candidates serve as Attorney General, our endorsement goes to Graybill, who we see as having a broader vision for the office and experience using the courts to vindicate the rights of Montanans through bold public-interest litigation.
To be clear, our endorsement of Graybill does not diminish our admiration for Representative Kim Dudik, whose work as a nurse, attorney, and legislator has always been centered on helping the people of Montana. Her record in the Montana Legislature as an advocate for human trafficking survivors and criminal justice reform demonstrates her ability to work across party lines to get results, and her plans if she were to be elected Attorney General make clear that she would continue to serve the people of Montana well.
Dudik convincingly speaks of her plans to shape bipartisan solutions to the lingering issues of substance abuse, neglect, and domestic violence and believes that the Attorney General “can play a pivotal role in climate change and holding these bad actors who have taken advantage of us and harmed our environment accountable.”
The sheer number of endorsements she has earned from fellow legislators is a testament to her ability to work with and lead.
Graybill also boasts high-profile support: Governor Bullock, a former Attorney General, chose Raph to be his top legal advisor and relies on him every day, notably in guiding Montana through the COVID pandemic. And Raph has earned the support of other prominent voices in the progressive movement, including the Montana Federation of Public Employees, Montana Conservation Voters, and former Governor Schweitzer, to name a few.
These are two well-liked and respected candidates for the office they seek.
So, what led to our endorsement of Graybill?
First, policy. Graybill seems to have advanced more specific policies that he can put into action as Attorney General—without the muddying that would occur getting them through what will likely be a Republican-led Legislature. His proposal to automatically register voters when they renew their drivers’ licenses has, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, the “potential to dramatically increase registration rates and improve the accuracy” of voter rolls.” His plan to use existing unfair trade practice laws to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for deceptive practices is bold and actionable. He plans to fight for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment that Montanans endorsed in 1974.
He has already demonstrated that he will fight—and win—when he needs to defend the rights of Montanans. He entered the race after defeating current Attorney General Tim Fox in a crucial case defending public access. He defeated President Trump and the IRS when they tried to weaken Montana’s disclosure rules for dark money. And he was at the U.S. Supreme Court when Montana was defending its right to keep public dollars from private schools.
Our endorsement also reflects our belief that Graybill has run a more energetic and effective campaign, something that will be critically important if we hope to defeat Greg Gianforte’s handpicked candidate, Austin Knudsen. Graybill has outraised all his opponents in the race, including raising more money than the combined total for the Republican candidates in three separate reporting periods. Entering this race, Graybill was almost certainly the least well-known of the four candidates, but he has hustled more than any candidate in a Tier B race we can recall, all while helping the state respond to COVID-19 and periodically embarrassing Corey Stapleton in court.
Finally, Graybill has more clearly articulated a vision for the role of the Attorney General as a position that should be charged with acting to even the scales of justice on behalf of the people who far too often face insurmountable odds in a legal system that unfairly empowers corporations, special interests, and even the institutions of government. Graybill will fit the model of progressive Attorneys General across the country, like Washington’s Bob Ferguson and Delaware’s Kathleen Jennings, who have remade their offices into forces for progressive change.
After eight years of Tim Fox using his office to sign on to right-wing amicus briefs designed to strip rights from Montanans, Graybill offers a refreshing corrective: using the Attorney General’s office to give a voice and power to the people.
As we have noted before, Democrats are in the enviable position of having excellent candidates running in primaries this year, and we would be well-served by either Attorney General Dudik or Attorney General Graybill. Our choice, though—for policy, politics, and progressive action—is Raph Graybill.