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State Rep. Rick Edmonds, left, R-Baton Rouge, and Benjamin Clapper, right, executive director of Louisiana Right to Life, hold out their hands as they and others pray over Liz Murrill, center, Louisiana Solicitor General for the Louisiana Attorney General's Office, during the program held as part of The Louisiana Life March South, one of the state's largest pro-life demonstrations, in Baton Rouge Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020. They were praying for Murrill because she will be involved when the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments in the case of Louisiana Act 620, the Unsafe Abortion Protection Act, which requires abortion physicians to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the procedure. An appeal on behalf of abortion clinics has been filed with the Supreme Court to block the 2014 law.

Liz Murrill, a top official in Attorney General Jeff Landry’s office, said Landry gave her a verbal exemption to rules he established that bar employees from running for political office, before Murrill filed papers to run for Landry’s job in 2023.

Murrill filed documents last month with the Louisiana Board of Ethics that give her the ability to raise money for her bid for attorney general. Murrill said she will run as long as Landry doesn’t seek re-election. He is widely expected to run for governor.

Landry’s office had not previously said whether Murrill was granted an exemption to Landry’s rules on political conduct in order to launch her bid for attorney general.

Landry issued rules in 2019 that prohibited his employees from running for political office unless they take leave from their job or resign. An employee becomes a candidate once they start accepting campaign contributions, publicly announce their candidacy or qualifies for office, the rules say.

A top aide to Jeff Landry is making a bid for attorney general. Will Landry run for governor?

“Exceptions to this policy must be approved in advance and may be granted by the Attorney General or his designee through specific written authority,” the rules state.

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The Advocate submitted a public records request for any written authority granted to Murrill to exempt her from those rules, and Landry’s office said no such document existed.

Murrill said before filing her paperwork, she reminded Landry of the rule and he granted her an exemption to continue working as solicitor general -- a job in which Murrill represents Louisiana before federal courts, among other things -- even while she’s a candidate. She said that took place in a “verbal conversation,” but that her “employment file reflects” that she has an exemption.

“I want to reassure you that before I filed, I advised the attorney general, reminded him of the policy. I advised him that I was preparing to file, and he gave me an exemption,” Murrill said.

Renee Fontenot Free in 2018 took leave from her job in Landry’s office to run for secretary of state. The rules were issued in 2019, according to a copy provided by Landry’s office.

Landry hasn’t announced his plans for 2023, when he would be up for re-election. He’s widely expected to run to replace Gov. John Bel Edwards, who cannot run for a third consecutive term.

“I’d certainly like to be able to keep doing my job for as long as I can. I want to run for attorney general if Jeff's not running for re-election,” Murrill said. “We have a lot of important work to do.”

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