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AG candidate Graybill eligible for ballot, commissioner says

Posted at 5:33 PM, Feb 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-28 19:33:06-05

HELENA — The state’s top campaign-law enforcer on Friday rejected a complaint alleging that Democratic attorney general candidate Raph Graybill is not eligible for the ballot.

In a 15-page ruling, Commissioner of Political Practices Jeff Mangan said the 30-year-old Graybill has met the constitutional requirement that he must be an attorney admitted to practice law in Montana and who has “engaged in the active practice” of law for at least five years.

Graybill said Friday he’s grateful that the complaint was dismissed quickly, “allowing Montanans to get back to the issues that matter.”

Graybill, chief counsel to Gov. Steve Bullock, is one of four candidates running this year to fill Montana’s open seat for attorney general.

He faces opposition in the Democratic primary from Missoula state Rep. Kim Dudik; two Republicans also are running.

A supporter of Dudik, former state Rep. Dave Wanzenried, filed the complaint against Graybill four weeks ago.

Wanzenried on Friday also commended Mangan for ruling promptly on his complaint and said he’s glad the issue was “cleared up … before a single vote has been cast for the office of attorney general.”

Wanzenried’s complaint questioned whether Graybill had met the eligibility requirements, because he had not been an attorney for five years before the primary election and because part of his career had been spent as a law clerk for a federal judge and working for a law firm in Seattle.

The complaint said that experience didn’t constitute an “active practice” of law for five years, in “good standing to practice law in Montana.”

Mangan, however, disagreed on several counts. He said the applicable date for the five years of experience is the general election, and that Graybill had been admitted to the state bar in September 2015 – more than five years before the November 2020 general election.

Mangan also said that Graybill’s experience as a law clerk and attorney in Washington state still meet the requirement of actively practicing law, while in “good standing” to practice in Montana.

Graybill, originally from Great Falls, moved back to Montana in 2017 when he became Bullock’s chief counsel.