SANTA FE – A historic statewide recount in the race for commissioner of public lands confirmed that Republican Aubrey Dunn has ousted Democratic incumbent Ray Powell.
Powell ended up trailing Dunn by 656 votes, according to results issued today by the secretary of state.
“The outcome of the race did not change,” said Bureau of Elections Director Bobbi Shearer.
Dunn had defeated Powell by 704 votes in the first round of tallying after the Nov. 4 general election.
The final vote total was 249,993 for Dunn and 249,337 for Powell.
“We won again, and we appreciate all the support from the citizens of New Mexico. … I think we can do a lot of good things,” Dunn told the Journal .
He will be sworn in, along with other statewide elected officials, on Jan. 1.
Powell said he is “really proud of the employees of the Land Office and what we’ve done over the past four years.” The office has never run better, he said.
“I wish Mr. Dunn the best of luck in taking care of New Mexico’s trust lands,” Powell added.
Land commissioner is a powerful position that oversees 13 million mineral acres and 9 million surface acres that New Mexico got from the federal government more than a century ago.
Under state election law, a difference between candidates of less than one-half of 1 percent of votes cast automatically triggers a recount.
The Dunn-Powell recount was the first since that law was enacted in 2008, and elections officials couldn’t remember a statewide recount before that.
The recount was delayed for a few days after Powell filed a lawsuit in the state Supreme Court, objecting to the recount procedures outlined by the State Canvassing Board.
An agreement was negotiated, and the recount began Thursday in all 33 counties. Most had finished within a couple of days, according to the Secretary of State’s Office. Bernalillo County wrapped up on Monday after working through the weekend, and Santa Fe County finished on Tuesday.
The State Canvassing Board meets Thursday to certify the recount results.
Powell, an Albuquerque veterinarian, is the longest-serving land commissioner in the state’s history. He has held the job since 2011; he also headed the State Land Office from 1993 to 2002.
Dunn is a rancher in Lincoln and Chaves counties who grew up on an apple farm in Otero County and had a career in banking.
He campaigned as business-friendly and said the Land Office hasn’t been aggressive enough in maximizing oil and gas drilling on state trust lands.
He portrayed Powell as a career politician with an “extreme environmental agenda.”
The land commissioner disputed that, saying he fostered strong economic growth on trust lands while protecting their health and taking in record revenues.
Dunn outspent Powell, $359,360 to the Democrat’s $273,168, according to the latest reports.
The Dunn campaign hit Powell hard with a television ad featuring a personal testimonial from Becky Mullane, former owner of Dixon’s Apple Orchard, a popular business on state trust land that was wiped out by a wildfire and flooding in 2011. Mullane criticized Powell for his actions after the disaster.