SANTA FE – State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn has dropped out of the race for an open southern New Mexico congressional seat, just 2½ months after declaring his campaign.
A spokeswoman confirmed Dunn’s decision. Dunn was speaking at a conference Monday afternoon and could not immediately be reached for comment.
However, Dunn’s son said his father was still considering other possible options – including a possible re-election bid – and suggested other members of the Dunn family could end up running for elected office in 2018.
“He just knows the (2nd Congressional District race) is not the right place,” Blair Dunn told the Journal.
Aubrey Dunn, a Republican, was elected land commissioner in 2014 but announced in July that he would forgo a re-election bid next year and instead run for Congress. He had cited U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce’s decision to run for governor – instead of re-election to the 2nd Congressional District seat – as a reason.
In recent months, Dunn and three other members of the State Investment Council have been barred from participating in closed-door meetings for refusing to sign an ethics code. That’s prompted Dunn and the others to indicate they might seek a court order, and led to heightened tension between the land commissioner and Gov. Susana Martinez, who is chairwoman of the investment council.
The SIC oversees roughly $22 billion in state funds, and its ethics code bars members from disclosing confidential information.
Dunn’s son said the SIC infighting was not a pivotal factor in his father’s political decision, but he acknowledged it played a role.
“It certainly hasn’t made us all that warm and fuzzy about running in New Mexico,” Blair Dunn said Monday.
Aubrey Dunn has also been embroiled in a legal battle with Democratic land commissioner candidate Garrett VeneKlasen over campaign ads. Dunn, the target of the ads, has filed a defamation suit that could go before a jury early next year.
The land commissioner, who owns a ranch near Mountainair, comes from a politically prominent New Mexico family; his father, Aubrey Dunn Sr., served as chairman of the state Senate Finance Committee.
His decision to drop out of the 2nd Congressional District race leaves three other GOP candidates in the field – state Rep. Yvette Herrell of Alamogordo, Carlsbad pharmacist Jack Volpato and former Hobbs Mayor Monty Newman.
There are also six Democrats running for the seat, which has been held by a Republican for all but two of the past 27 years.
Dunn still has nearly 15 months left on his four-year term as land commissioner, and his son said Monday that he intends to finish out his term.