A recount of votes in the state land commissioner race confirmed Republican challenger Aubrey Dunn’s narrow victory over Democratic incumbent Ray Powell, the Secretary of State’s Office said Tuesday.
Rod Adair, spokesman for the office, said the recount was completed earlier during the day and the official results will be presented to the State Canvassing Board on Thursday, which is charged with certifying the election outcome.
Dunn and Powell finished neck-and-neck in the unofficial vote tally after the Nov. 4 general election, which showed Dunn winning with a margin of 704 votes out of 499,666 votes cast, or a .14 percent difference. State law requires an automatic recount when the margin is less than .5 percent.
Adair said the recount conducted by clerks in all 33 counties in New Mexico gave Dunn an official victory margin of 658 votes.
Reached by phone on Tuesday night, Powell said he wished luck to Dunn in “taking care of our state’s trust lands.”
“I am really honored and proud of the excellent job our employees at the State Land Office have done,” he said. “I don’t think it has ever run as well.”
Dunn couldn’t be immediately reached for comment Tuesday night.
Dunn’s victory adds to a surge of Republican election wins both nationally and locally. In New Mexico, in addition to Gov. Susana Martinez and Secretary of State Dianna Duran winning second terms, Republicans won of the state House of Representatives for the first time in 60 years. Nationally, Republicans took control of the U.S. Senate and strengthened their control of the U.S. House.
The state land commissioner is one of the most powerful elected positions in the state with the least independent oversight. The commissioner oversees 9 million acres of surface state trust land and 13 million acres of mineral estate. Money earned from leases and royalties on the state trust lands benefits public schools, universities and state hospitals. Revenue generated from state trust land also covers the annual budget of the New Mexico State Land Office.
Powell was state land commissioner from 1993 to 2002 and was elected again in 2010 by a narrow margin. The New Mexico State Land Office recently has enjoyed record-setting revenues due to increased oil and gas activity and prices, as well as new business leases on state trust land. In October, the State Land Office earned $79.2 million for beneficiaries. Since the beginning of Powell’s latest term, the office has generated $2.3 billion for beneficiaries.