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State GOP asks SupCo to toss Dem AG candidate off ballot

Alleges Graybill hasn't met law-practice minimum
Graybill-Raph 2.jpg
Posted at 5:11 PM, Aug 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-05 12:46:40-04

HELENA — The state Republican Party has asked the Montana Supreme Court to declare Democratic attorney general candidate Raph Graybill ineligible for the office and remove him from the Nov. 3 ballot, alleging he hasn’t practiced law long enough in the state.

Graybill, 31, chief counsel for Gov. Steve Bullock, is running against 39-year-old Republican Roosevelt County Attorney Austin Knudsen of Culbertson for Montana’s open attorney general seat.

The GOP’s petition, filed Monday, said Graybill has not met the constitutional requirement that an attorney general must be “in good standing admitted to practice law in Montana (and) who has engaged in the active practice thereof for at least five years before election.”

A spokesman for Graybill’s campaign on Tuesday said Graybill has met the qualifications and called the petition from the state GOP a “desperate effort by Knudsen to revive a lagging campaign.”

A similar complaint was filed against Graybill earlier this year with the state commissioner of political practices, who dismissed it in February.

Graybill was admitted to the Montana bar in September 2015 and, since then, has worked in Billings as a law clerk for a federal appeals court judge, for a law firm in Seattle, and, starting in 2017, as chief counsel to Gov. Bullock.

The commissioner of political practice said Graybill met the eligibility requirements for attorney general because "he is an attorney in good standing admitted to practice law in Montana who has engaged in the active practice thereof for at least five years" before the general election. The state GOP’s petition said the commissioner’s ruling was “erroneous.”

The Republican Party said Graybill is “not entitled to appear on the general election ballot” because he hasn’t met the eligibility requirements.

It also said the Montana Supreme Court has jurisdiction over the issue because the general election ballot must be certified Aug. 20 and therefore quick action is needed.

The Supreme Court doesn’t have to accept the case and could dismiss it on jurisdictional grounds.