Attorney General Jeff Landry, who is running for governor, and his deputy Liz Murrill, who is running for attorney general, have a close working relationship that will likely continue if they both win their elections later this year. (Photos by Matthew Perschall/Louisiana Illuminator)
Louisiana Republican megadonor Lane Grigsby has been an enthusiastic supporter of Attorney General Jeff Landry’s campaign for governor over the past year. But Grigsby said Landry also asked him personally to back another candidate on the fall ballot — Liz Murrill, a Republican who’s running to replace Landry as attorney general.
Landry told Grigsby it would be a “travesty” if Murrill wasn’t elected, Grigsby said in an interview. After talking to Murrill in person, Grigsby came to the same conclusion.
“After I met her, I thought she might be one of the best AGs in the United States” if she’s elected this fall, said Grigsby, who founded Cajun Industries. “Even if you ask Jeff, she really runs the AG’s office already.”
“There’s a lot of overlap because Jeff is the best candidate for governor and Liz is the best candidate for AG,” he added.
Louisiana rarely sees two candidates running on the same ballot who have the close, working relationship Landry and Murrill already have. Murrill, a Republican, has been Landry’s top deputy in the Louisiana Department of Justice since 2016, when Landry became attorney general.
Should both get elected, the governor and attorney general’s office would be expected to line up on policy agendas in a way that hasn’t been seen in decades.
“Jeff and I are very aligned on our philosophy of state government,” Murrill said in an interview. “We’ve always been very much aligned legally and philosophically. … We would be able to accomplish a lot.”
Landry, the frontrunner in the governor’s race, has not officially endorsed Murrill over the two other Republicans candidates running for attorney general, state Rep. John Stefanski and former prosecutor Marty Maley. Through his campaign, Landry also declined to comment on Murrill for this article.
But Landry has made it obvious in several other ways that he is not just quietly backing Murrill but actively pushing for her with his supporters.
The two candidates share political advisers. Landry’s longtime political consultant, Brent Littlefield, is also working for Murrill. Murrill’s campaign manager, Jason Hebert, is running Protect Louisiana’s Children, one of the political action committee’s supporting Landry’s election efforts.
The Republican Attorneys General Association, where Landry is a member of leadership, gave Murrill a very early endorsement in February over her two Republican opponents. Likewise, the Republican Party of Louisiana, where Landry has great influence, backed Murrill early over Stefanski and Maley last month.
On a more personal level, Landry’s wife Sharon donated $5,000 to Murrill, the maximum allowed by an individual in a campaign cycle. Cajun PAC II, a political action committee supporting Landry and run by his brother Benjamin, also gave Murrill $5,000, according to a review of campaign finance reports.
Murrill’s most prolific campaign donors also tend to be longtime, major supporters of Landry.
Her top 15 campaign contributors — those who have given her campaign at least $12,000 combined through personal accounts, family members and businesses — have also given money to Landry, his PACs or the Louisiana Republican Party’s efforts to elect him.
Four of Murrill’s top five campaign donors — people who have given her campaign at least $20,000 — are Landry mega donors. Each gave at least $125,500 to Landry’s gubernatorial election efforts, according to a review of campaign finance records.
Through the attorney general’s office, Landry also put Murrill — who had never run for elected office before this cycle — in a better position to win a statewide race in Louisiana.
Shortly after taking office in 2016, Landry created an entirely new position in state government that Murrill filled. She became Louisiana’s new solicitor general who focuses on federal litigation and appellate cases.
While not a household name, Murrill has more of a public persona than other state government administrators because she handles most of the attorney general’s high-profile cases.
Her work has included defending Louisiana’s abortion restrictions and (now defunct) non-unanimous jury law before the U.S. Supreme Court. She has handled federal challenges against the state’s political maps and been the point person for Landry on dozens of lawsuits brought against the Obama and Biden administrations over everything from social media companies to transgender student bathroom use.
Murrill said she is grateful to Landry for giving her those professional opportunities — she’s appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court five times — that she never imagined were possible. She considers herself a bit of an unusual choice for a solicitor general.
Solicitor generals in other states have graduated from top-tier law schools such as Harvard or Yale and held prestigious law clerk jobs with U.S. Supreme Court justices. Murrill earned her law degree from LSU, was editor-in-chief of the law school’s journal and held a clerkship with Judge Frank J. Polozola in U.S. District court in Baton Rouge, a prestigious position but not considered as elite as working for a Supreme Court justice.
“Ten years ago, if you had told me I would be arguing before the Supreme Court, I would have laughed,” she said.
Before the attorney general’s office, Murrill worked in Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration, and said U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, who also worked for Jindal, initially recommended her to Landry.
“We didn’t really know each other that well until he hired me,” Murrill said of Landry.
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Attorneys general and governors haven’t traditionally had the easiest relationships, in part because the state constitution doesn’t delineate the legal authority of each office, according to Terry Ryder, an attorney who worked for Govs. Mike Foster, Kathleen Blanco and Bobby Jindal.
“Although the AG is in the executive branch, they like to pretend they are an entity unto their own,” said Ryder, who served as executive counsel to Blanco. “The constitution should have been written with more specificity. … It’s an overstatement for the AG to pretend to make all the legal decisions for the state.”
Murrill is familiar with both the attorney general’s office and the governor’s legal responsibilities. She served as executive counsel for Jindal, and worked closely with one of Landry’s rivals in the governor’s race, Republican lobbyist Stephen Waguespack.
She is also confident she and Landry would collaborate if they are both elected.
“I want a governor who is going to work with me and not see me as a threat,” she said. “I know from the eight years that I’ve been with Jeff that he will [work with me].”
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