The race for state land commissioner pits a veteran against a newcomer, both counting on voters’ thirst for change. Specifically, a change to transparency.
Democrat Ray Powell of Albuquerque, 60, had the job from 1993 to 2003. Republican Matt Rush of Portales, 36, is new to politics.
Current Land Commissioner Republican Patrick Lyons can’t run for re-election because of term limits.
The Land Office manages New Mexico’s trust lands, 13 million mineral acres and 9 million surface acres. Revenues from leasing — for drilling, farming, ranching, mining, and business and community development — go primarily to public schools and higher education.
Lyons has had run-ins with the attorney general over the legality of land swaps and of business arrangements with developers.
Both candidates say the office has long been needing a return to transparency and accountability and hope to bring the office up to current technology to help attain that openness.
“It is our money and everyone has a right to know where it comes from and where it is being invested,” Rush said.
Powell said he intends to establish a task force to review the land office’s polices in his first 90 days if elected.
“To enhance transparency and accountability of the Land Office, the task force will be charged to provide recommendations to the Land Commissioner, legislature, and other interested parties,” Powell said.
Powell said as land commissioner he would make decisions only after involving the public.
The candidates also plan to expand alternative energy on the acres they would control.
Powell said he looks forward to the jobs alternative energies will create for New Mexicans.
Job creation is part of both candidates platforms. Rush said better utilization of the state’s trust lands will bring jobs back to New Mexico.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.