New Mexico State Sen. George Muñoz will seek the Democratic nomination for Commissioner of Public Lands.
Born and raised in Gallup, Muñoz is a businessman and a three-term state senator representing Cibola and McKinley counties and part of the Navajo Nation.
“For the past 9 years, I have worked to advance real solutions within the state Legislature to improve education, create new jobs and enhance the quality of life for all New Mexicans,” said Muñoz. “As Commissioner of Public Lands, I pledge to bring that same experience and approach to the State Land Office and hold it accountable to the citizens of New Mexico.”
Incumbent Aubrey Dunn, a Republican elected to the office in 2014, has announced his intention to run for the U.S. House of Representatives District 2 seat now held by Steve Pearce (R-Hobbs). Pearce has said he will run for New Mexico governor in 2018 after Gov. Susana Martinez’s term is up.
Munoz’s Democratic challengers at this point include Garrett VeneKlasen of Santa Fe, executive director of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, and Ray Powell of Albuquerque, a veterinarian who has been State Land Commissioner twice before, from 1993 to 2002 and 2011 to 2014.
Muñoz said he will focus his campaign for commissioner on identifying and securing sustainable ways to increase income for all of New Mexico’s public schools — from fully-funded early childhood education to the state’s colleges and universities.
“The Legislature has been unable to take care of our most vulnerable citizens, but, if elected commissioner of Public Lands, I will work to find real solutions to help drive our state’s economy and ensure that our schools have the resources they need to give all of our children a bright future in New Mexico.”
Muñoz said his experience as a voting member of the Legislative Finance Committee has brought him an understanding of the state’s budgetary issues.
“I fully understand the budgetary constraints New Mexico faces, which is why I support and encourage the development of renewable energy projects on state trust lands. Creating jobs and diversifying our state’s revenue is a win-win for kids and the economy,” said Muñoz. “I support all forms of responsible energy production on state trust lands — it’s how we provide funding for our schools, teachers and kids.
But we must also look to the future and understand that New Mexico has unlimited resources in solar and wind. Together with oil and gas, we can provide long-term solutions to our budget concerns. I will work to encourage energy companies and utilities to develop these vital resources, create good jobs and to invest in the future of New Mexico.”
The State Land Office oversees more than 9 million acres of surface land and 13 million acres of minerals that are intended to help public schools, higher education and other beneficiaries.
Revenues from state trust lands come from oil and natural gas royalties, grazing rights and energy leases. The Commissioner of Public Lands has authority to allow activities on state trust lands and to authorize land exchanges when in the best interest of the trust.
Muñoz describes himself as an avid conservationist and sportsman. He also said that he has worked closely with the Navajo Nation leadership.
“As a lifelong New Mexican, I appreciate the rich diversity that makes our state unique and will build on those values as Commissioner of Public Lands.”
Muñoz is married to Sharmyn, an educator in McKinley County. The couple has two sons, Zane and Landon.