< Democracy for New Mexico: Public Lands Commissioner Candidates Face Off in Las Cruces

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Public Lands Commissioner Candidates Face Off in Las Cruces

Powell Jones
Ray Powell, Sandy Jones

This is a post by contributing writer, Stephen Jones, who is a progressive political activist and a resident of Las Cruces, New Mexico. He IS our Southern NM Bureau.

All five candidates for Commissioner of Public Lands appeared at a public forum held at the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum in Las Cruces on Thursday, May 20. In a generally polite event two Republicans, Bob Cornelius and Matt Rush, and three Democrats, Sandy Jones, Harry Montoya and Ray Powell, answered policy questions and introduced their policy positions and backgrounds to the voters who attended the event. The forum was sponsored by seven environmental and sportsman’s groups. Of the candidates, one Republican and one Democrat will emerge from the June 1 primary and face each other in November.

Montoya Forum1
Harry Montoya, forum stage

Questions posed to the candidates were solicited by the sponsoring organizations and posed to the candidates in a highly structured format.

All five of the candidates stressed the role of the Public Lands Commission in providing funds for education and in bringing transparency to the office. Of the three Democrats, Harry Montoya stressed his experience as Santa Fe County Commissioner and his previous two terms as a member of the Pojoaque Valley School Board. Sandy Jones outlined his background on the Public Regulation Commission and his lifelong support of sportsmen. Ray Powell talked about his background of working with Jane Goodall and other environmentalists and promised to bring ethics back to the office, which he held for two terms before being term limited.

Bob Cornelius, Matt Rush

Of the Republicans Bob Cornelius talked about his strong family history in southeastern New Mexico and his support from the National Rifle Association (NRA). Matt Rush, an eight generation farmer who presently lives in Dora, promised “good stewardship” if elected. While the three Democrats stressed greater economic diversification in land use and leases, including renewable energy, the two Republicans favored continued reliance on mining and oil and gas. Cornelius also favored more uranium enrichment and nuclear power.

All five of the candidates insisted on guaranteeing access to public lands by sportsmen, but maintained that sportsmen have an obligation to work with lessees to share the state’s resources responsibly. “If Joe lets 30 cattle out, then Joe should be responsible for 30 cattle,” Sandy Jones said.

All five candidates

In a generally restrained debate, the one contentious moment occurred when Cornelius charged that Powell had left behind a record of illegal dumping that resulted in Commissioner Patrick Lyons' “Don’t Trash the Trust” program. Ray Powell responded that he had instituted a rigorous ethics program in the office that has not been followed by Commissioner Lyons citing his dubious White Peak land trade. “We can’t afford pay to play in New Mexico” Powell said.

The event was sponsored by the Dona Ana County Sportsmen, Mesilla Valley Audubon Society, Southwest Consolidated Sportsmen, Southwest Environmental Center, New Mexico Wilderness Association, New Mexico Wildlife Association and the Wild Turkey Sportsmen’s Association.

All photos by Stephen Jones. Click on images for larger versions. To read more posts by Stephen, visit our archive. Click to check out our previous posts on the 2010 land commissioner race.

May 21, 2010 at 09:36 AM in 2010 NM Land Commissioner Race, By Stephen Jones, Contributing Writer | Permalink


We have to keep this office out of GOP hands. Vote Ray Powell!

Posted by: Laurie | May 21, 2010 11:15:49 AM

I was at the forum and Bob Cornelius is a piece of work. He has no clue what the land office is about.

Posted by: Chuck | May 21, 2010 11:32:27 AM

mmmmm... turkey!

Posted by: thelonius | May 21, 2010 1:47:35 PM

I was also at the forum, Chuck! Bob Cornelius had several good ideas about how to expand energy exploration and improve our agricultural economy. I disagree with Stephen that the Republicans just talked about oil and mining. Bob Cornelius talked alternatives such as wind, biogas, solar, hydro, clean coal, and nuclear.

You progressives have it out for Bob and he actually supports most of your agenda! If he was a Democrat, you'd be hoisting him up and praising his name. Because he has an "R" next to his name, you tear him down. It should be about ideas and vision, not just about party affiliation!

Posted by: Stephen Ramirez | May 21, 2010 8:54:12 PM

Stephen Ramirez, have you read this expose of the "inconsistencies" with what Bob Cornelius is saying? You should:


Posted by: barb | May 22, 2010 10:37:42 AM

That looks like a hit piece from a liberal blogger to me, Barb. If you wish to believe that garbage, then I guess some people will believe anything.

Posted by: Stephen Ramirez | May 22, 2010 3:34:28 PM

The Santa Fe Reporter is a weekly newspaper. The article lays out facts that Cornelius has not refuted with any documentation to the contrary.

Posted by: barb | May 22, 2010 4:06:37 PM

According to Cornelius' friend of 5 years:

When I suggested he didn’t have a real good reputation for honesty, when I confronted him about it, he did not react; he did not deny; he did not say, "well yeah you’re right."
When your friend calls you a liar, you're toast.

Posted by: Proud Democrat | May 22, 2010 8:35:25 PM

Lets all vote ray powell. He has the experiance. He will keep the land office out of the rich Texan hands.

Posted by: georgep | May 24, 2010 5:25:34 PM