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Dunn to sue over defamation allegations

State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn is planning to sue a potential Democratic rival over allegations that Dunn stands to profit from a controversial transmission line project.

In a letter sent this week, Dunn’s attorney Blair Dunn, who is also his son, informed Garrett VeneKlasen that a defamation lawsuit would be filed if VeneKlasen persists in “defamatory conduct.” The younger Dunn indicated Friday that the lawsuit could be filed by as soon as Monday.

The legal threat came after VeneKlasen, in a radio ad released in conjunction with the launching of his 2018 bid for land commissioner, suggested that Aubrey Dunn negotiated a deal to run the SunZia transmission line through his personal ranch near Mountainair.

But Dunn has disputed that assertion, saying in the letter that he had no input in the routing of the transmission line and has not received any money from the project.

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Dunn, a Republican who was elected land commissioner in 2014, publicly disclosed in 2015 that he and his wife had purchased a ranch that sits along the proposed SunZia route and could potentially benefit from access easements.

Despite the lawsuit threat, VeneKlasen isn’t backing down from his allegations.

“It sure looks like self-dealing Aubrey Dunn doesn’t like being exposed,” VeneKlasen said Friday. “Dunn’s frivolous lawsuit won’t change the fact that he stands to personally benefit from these dealings.”

Dunn has said he is weighing his options for 2018, including a potential re-election bid. VeneKlasen is one of two Democrats to so far jump into the race, with former Land Commissioner Ray Powell the other.

LIBERTARIAN BOOST: The Libertarian Party of New Mexico announced Friday that it has qualified for major party status – but it’s actually not quite official yet.

The Libertarian Party met the first requirement for major party qualification in November, when its presidential nominee, former Gov. Gary Johnson, got 9.3 percent of the votes cast statewide. The threshold is at least 5 percent.

However, state law also requires that at least 0.33 percent of statewide registered voters be affiliated with a political party at the time of a primary election proclamation for the party to obtain major party status.

Libertarians are on track to meet that goal – slightly more than 0.5 percent of New Mexico voters were registered Libertarians as of this week – but the election proclamation will not be issued until January.

Major party status allows a political party’s candidates to appear on the state’s primary election ballots. Currently, the only two major parties in New Mexico are the Democratic and Republican parties.

Dan Boyd: dboyd@abqjournal.com

 


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