Alibi V.19 No.43 • Oct 28-Nov 3, 2010 
Alibi’s Online Election Guide

Feature

Land Commissioner

Marisa Demarco

The Alibi endorses: Ray Powell

Job Description: Custodian of the state’s public lands. Majority of the revenue generated from the office goes to New Mexico schools.

Term: Four years, limited to two consecutive terms

Salary: $90,000

Ray Powell comes with experience—loads of it. The man has already held the office for two-plus terms. When Jim Baca left the post in 1993 to join the Clinton administration, Powell was appointed in his stead; he was then elected to serve for two consecutive terms through 2002. Term limits kicked in at that point, preventing him from running again. But now he’s back.

In the interim, he served as the executive director the Valles Caldera National Preserve. He's the regional director of the Four Corners area for the Jane Goodall Institute. He’s also a veterinarian with a master’s in systematic botany and plant ecology from UNM. He got his doctorate in veterinary medicine from Tufts University with an emphasis in wildlife rehabilitation.

Marisa Demarco

Powell’s big issue this election cycle is ethics. He says pay-to-play policies have been in effect at the Land Office, and he wants to eradicate them immediately and make the office transparent.

Oil and gas drilling generate more than 90 percent of the office’s revenue, so Powell doesn't oppose it, but he also talks of stringent regulation, transparency and groundwater protection. He wants to increase the state’s portfolio of energy sources.

He says he believes in working with communities closely before approving development projects (something he was known for the last time he was in office). He’s also a supporter of wolf reintroduction.

Powell has a deep understanding of all the issues that affect decision-making in the Land Office. He’s proven himself a steward of land, wildlife, communities and smart development. We’re lucky Powell wants to sit in the office again, because he’s a trustworthy and eager candidate, and we know he’ll serve our state well.

The Alibi wholeheartedly endorses Powell.

We’re lucky Powell wants to sit in the office again, because he’s a trustworthy and eager candidate, and we know he’ll serve our state well.

Matt Rush comes from eight generations of farming and cattle ranching in the state. He and his dad run a cow/calf operation in Roosevelt County, where they also farm wheat and hay. Two years ago, Rush ran for the state Legislature and lost.

We think it’s fair to say Rush knows agriculture. He’s involved in his community, and he obviously cares about doing some good. But why run for the land commissioner’s seat? His answer: Why not? Rush understands the office is a powerful one that wields much influence. He wonders why more people don’t run for it. Fair enough.

His main issues are energy, ethics and fiscal management, but his platform doesn’t go much beyond talking points. He wants to “restore ethics” to the office, but other than saying that he’ll be a vocal member of the State Investment Council (land commissioners are automatically members), he leaves out any particulars. He says he’ll be fiscally responsible, but his strategy for doing so is simply hanging on to the policies already in place in the Land Office. There’s just not a lot of meat to his platforms.

Rush says when it comes to drilling for gas and oil, groundwater should be protected. But, he adds, the industry may be over-regulated, and he also proposes giving drilling companies tax credits to ensure they stay in the state. He’s against wolf reintroduction.

Rush ran into a media snafu this fall when he told a reporter from the Albuquerque Journal that he had a degree from Lubbock Christian University, and the paper found out he didn’t. Turns out Rush is only one course away from a bachelor’s degree, so he says he assumed he automatically had an associate’s.

We’re left with a contender who may or may not have intentionally lied about his education, whose experience is confined to farming and ranching, and who doesn’t have strategies to back up his goals. He seems like a nice enough guy, but really, is this race a hard choice?