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About 12 years ago, I endorsed a relatively young lawyer in his race to become Montana’s attorney general because he had energy, optimism, experience in the public and private sectors, good ideas and wanted to make Montana a better place to live for all of her residents.

There were other thoughtful, talented, honorable Democrats who also wanted the job, but this candidate was really impressive. I knew he’d work hard to get elected and even harder when he served as Montana’s lawyer and top law-enforcement officer. And though the business of endorsing candidates in primary elections is fraught with peril, I endorsed him anyway. Steve Bullock was elected in 2008 and served with distinction. Then he became governor and you know the rest.

Raph Graybill is impressive just the same and his ideas, experience, optimism and desire to continue his public service as Montana’s next attorney general have earned him my endorsement in the 2020 Democratic primary.

Raph’s not new to public service. I first met him after he was elected to be a delegate from Great Falls to the 2008 Democratic National Convention, our state’s youngest delegate at a time when the energy of young people swept in positive change in elections across Montana.

A decade later, after working for a private law firm with a great reputation and a national presence, Raph answered Gov. Steve Bullock’s call to serve as his chief legal counsel.

And he’s served with distinction. Raph has worked in the trenches to fight for clean elections, a clean environment, for our privacy and more. He’s taken on challenges worth fighting for and won.

For example, when President Donald Trump’s Internal Revenue Service tried to gut transparency rules to make it easier for corporations and foreign governments to spend in our elections, Raph led the case against them and won.

When Montana’s sitting attorney general tried to make it harder for ranchers and farmers in Montana to provide hunting and fishing access on their land through conservation easements, Governor Bullock sent Raph to stand up for our public access and he won.

But it’s not just his past record that’s impressive; his plans for the future present a vision for Montana that reflects our values. He’s focused on how the attorney general can expand personal freedom, not limit it. He’s the only candidate talking about how we can use antitrust law to lower the cost of prescription drugs and fight back against out of state corporate interests. He’s talking about the huge issue of privacy. He’s talking about the ways the AG can protect workers and unions getting attacked by powerful interests in the legal system.

That’s my kind of attorney general: someone focused on how the law is making lives better or worse for Montanans and what we can do about it.

In contrast, I see our current attorney general joining right-wing lawsuits against a women’s right to choose cooked up in other states or opposing the city of Missoula’s right to enact laws making it harder for criminals to get their hands on guns. And the Republicans running for this office have a vision, too, but it’s bleak. One of them promised to build a border wall with Mexico and end the Affordable Care Act. 

That’s why this race is so important.

The choice we’ll make in the 2020 attorney general race is between fear and hope, the past and the future. Raph has firmly committed to our future, and he’s got a plan to get there. It’s time for an attorney general who works for us, all of us. I’m very impressed. Missoulians would do well to hire him.

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John Engen has served as Missoula’s mayor since 2006.

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