Powell: mudslinging in ads sullied land commissioner race
Bad apples and a lack of resources may have cost Land Commissioner Ray Powell his re-election.
With a recount now under way, just 704 votes separate Democrat Powell and his opponent Republican Aubrey Dunn.
Although the votes were close, the candidates’ budgets weren’t. According to the Associated Press, Dunn spent about $359,000 while Powell spent about $273,000.
But did the financial difference have a significant impact on the race? Powell says he thinks so.
Powell said that although a lot of things could have affected the outcome, there is one thing that stands out: negative campaigning.
In late September, Dunn began broadcasting a television ad calling attention to the Dixon Apple Orchard incident. The video is titled What Really Happened to the Apple Orchard.
The orchard was run by Jim and Becky Mullane and had been in the family for 70 years. In 2011, a fire destroyed the property. After the fire came a flood that caused even further damage.
In Dunn’s 30 second ad, Becky Mullane talks about the fire and the flood, and ends the video by saying “but you, Ray Powell, you are the one that hurt us the most.”
During the commercial, before and after photos of the orchard are shown. Text criticizing Ray Powell’s land management also appears on the screen.
In a longer version of the video, which is more than two minutes long, Mullane said Powell did not seem concerned about what had happened with her business. She also said Powell turned down almost every solution her family proposed regarding the resignation of their lease on the orchard.
A month later, Powell came out with two 30-second videos. With these videos titled The Truth About Dixon Apple Orchard, he attempted to respond to the accusations made in Dunn’s ad.
In the first ad, Powell’s response was that the apple orchard owners had not bought insurance, and he did not want to use taxpayers’ money to bail the family out. Instead, he brought the Cochiti Pueblo and the Dixon family together, he said.
Powell’s second video begins with a woman saying “Aubrey Dunn, stop lying about Ray Powell and the Dixon Apple Orchard.” She narrates the entire video.
The ad explains that the fire did not start on state trust land, but on federal land. It also says the fire had nothing to do with the State Land Office, but Powell still tried to assist the family the best way he could.
In an interview, Powell said Dunn’s ad had an emotional hook. However, he said he hoped that this hook disappeared once people understood the truth.
Powell said he felt sorry for the family but that it would not be fair to taxpayers to use their money to bail the family out. Although he was satisfied with his response to Dunn’s ad, Powell said his own commercials probably came out too late.
“We couldn’t respond earlier or with more commercials because of our resources. And that’s when the early voting had been going on,” he said. “I think if we had been able to have them on earlier we wouldn’t be having this recount.”
During the Nov. 4 election night, Blair Dunn, an attorney who has acted as his father’s spokesperson, said the only negative ad his campaign ran was the Dixon orchard commercials. He described the video as a “non-traditional negative ad.”
“We had a testimonial from somebody about what happened,” he said. “We didn’t say anything that wasn’t true.”
The Dixon Apple Orchard incident has not been Dunn’s only criticism against Powell.
Regarding the current recount suspension, Dunn wrote on his website that
Powell “is doing his very best to overturn the popular vote that elected (Dunn) on November 4th.”
He also claimed that the Democratic Party had hired 40 attorneys to help Powell. Powell denied that this was true and said he had only one attorney.
“It seems that he distorted the truth during the campaign and he is still doing it right now,” he said.
Powell said it’s important that he and his opponent find common ground so they can find solutions to help New Mexico succeed. He said he would not feel comfortable attacking Dunn.
“I don’t see an advantage in just creating firing squads,” Powell said. “The victims are the citizens because you don’t get anything done. I just told the truth.”
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