It’s usually a low-key contest on the ballot, but this year there is a loud campaign in the race to be New Mexico’s land commissioner, and both sides are spending big.
As part of the 2018 Midterm Election, the state land commissioner race is drawing in a big round of campaign advertising this year, and analysts say a lot of it is coming from out of state because of New Mexico’s oil boom.
“Usually we don’t talk about la nd commissioner races really a whole lot,” said Gabe Sanchez, a political science professor at UNM and KRQE News 13’s political analyst.
The land commissioner controls what’s happens on New Mexico’s state-owned land, whether its leases for wind turbines or oil drilling.
In the 2018 race, Democrat Stephanie Garcia Richard and Republican Pat Lyons are the front-runners pitted against each other. While both candidates have spent a considerable amount of money on their own campaigns, so too have outside interests.
“I think this has generated a lot of national attention, got a lot of people here very interested in the race,” said Sanchez.
It comes as New Mexico has beat expectations in oil production. The state is currently the second leading oil producer in the entire U.S. Oil and gas brought in more than 1.7 billion in revenue to the state in the last fiscal year.
“They’re (outside interests) looking at it saying, look the candidates vary pretty dramatically in their view on this,” said Sanchez.
Oil giant Chevron is reported to have put about $2 million into a super PAC backing Pat Lyons and a continued push for more oil and gas drilling in New Mexico. Meanwhile, the League of Conservation Voters has put money into ads backing Stephanie Garcia Richard, who has campaigned on holding oil and gas accountable.
With New Mexico’s continued surge as an oil producer, Sanchez thinks the outside ads will only continue into future land commissioner races.
“A lot of these commercials that you’re seeing, you’re only going to see more of it because there’s no caps on how much money these PACs can spend,” said Sanchez.
Whoever wins the land commissioner race in the election will ultimately have control of more than 9 million acres of state trust land. All of the revenue made off those lands goes to things like schools and hospitals.