As of 1:30 a.m., 846 of 1,487 precincts had partially reported their vote totals and 622 precincts had fully reported their totals. Challenger Aubrey Dunn, a Republican, led incumbent Democrat Ray Powell by 425 votes — a difference of 0.08 percent. Automatic recounts take place when races are closer than .5 percent.
Political consultant Juan Carlos Holmes said the land commissioner’s office controls almost 13 million acres of mineral rights beneath 9 million acres of surface land.
The Land Grant Permanent Fund is composed of revenue from leases, auctions of natural gas and oil, minerals, mineral rights and rent, he said. The interest from the revenue goes to beneficiaries, which is any public institution in New Mexico, including the University of New Mexico.
UNM received about $8.9 million from the New Mexico State Land Office in 2012-2013 fiscal year, according annual report by the New Mexico State Land Office.
“It pays for upkeep, maintenance, facilities — things of that nature,” Holmes said. “Therefore the sort of flip side is that the money that comes out of the trust fund saves the average household about $800 a year.”
Both Powell and Dunn have backgrounds in public resources.
Powell served two terms as land commissioner from 1993 to 2002. He was elected again in 2010, winning an open seat with 52 percent of the vote that time around. During his years in office he focused on reducing taxes and economic growth on State Land Trusts for public education.
If he wins, Powell said he plans to create more jobs within renewable energy and encourage honest and open government.
“It’s the key, having as much sunshine as possible, because when people are really paying attention they can be engaged and involved, and what started off as good decisions become much better by that public participation,” Powell said.
When he was elected in 2010, he said, there was a lot of work to be done because the office was in disarray, but he said he thinks it is in great shape now.
“We are very proud; we’ve got honest, ethical, hard-working employees at the Land office and I am honored to work with them,” Powell said. “The state is in good hands.”
Powell said if he loses the race he hopes to continue with another agency and will make it an easy transition for Dunn.
Dunn has served as supervisor, chairman and vice-chairman of the Chaves County Soil and Water Conservation District. Also, he was the CEO and President of First Federal Bank of New Mexico.
Dunn ran once before, in 2012 for a state senate race but was unsuccessful.
A. Blair Dunn, campaign manager for Aubrey Dunn, said the record revenues for the New Mexico State Land Office were due to record oil and gas prices.
Future plans for Dunn include creating more jobs in renewable energy, encouraging honest and open government and emphasizing funding for education.
Dunn declined to comment before the results of the election were final.