Land commissioner sues opponent over campaign ad

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE)– The State Land Commissioner is suing his opponent over a campaign ad. He says his political rival is spreading lies about him making deals in office to pad his own wallet.

However, this new Democratic challenger does not have any plans to change his ad. Now, the current land commissioner wants the court to step in to get the ad off the airwaves.

The new campaign ad for the Democratic candidate for land commissioner starts with a light-hearted touch. Yet, it’s what comes next that has his opponent, Aubrey Dunn, suing for defamation.

“Our current land commissioner bought a ranch for himself. Normally, that’s not a problem, but as commissioner, he negotiated a deal to run a billion-dollar power line, not only through state trust land, but also through his personal ranch property,” said candidate Garrett VeneKlasen in the new ad.

“That’s taking something and twisting it in a way that’s just not true,” argued Blair Dunn.

Blair Dunn is Aubrey Dunn’s son and attorney. He says his dad filed a defamation lawsuit against VeneKlasen because it damages Dunn’s reputation.

“We’re taking a stand to say, if we’re going to have a campaign and we’re going to have a race for office, we think it should be honest,” said Dunn.

The controversy surrounds Dunn’s role in the SunZia transmission line — a massive, two-state power line that will run through land near Corona, between Socorro and Carrizozo.

It goes directly through the ranch Dunn bought months before he was elected commissioner in 2014.

“That’ll lead to a lot of money flowin’ his way. Must be coincidence, huh? Nah?” Garrett said in the ad.

“That they planned this out before he ever got elected, that’s just preposterous on its face,” said Dunn.

VeneKlasen says he’s not backing down.

“I think Mr. Dunn has chosen to pick a fight with the facts and we stand by the content of our ad,” said VeneKlasen.

Dunn wants a judge to make VeneKlasen pull the ad. He also wants money for damage already done to his reputation.

Defamation suits are more difficult for public officials. If Dunn wants to win, he has to prove VeneKlasen is intentionally trying to hurt him. Blair Dunn says he’s confident in their case because Dunn already warned VeneKlasen his ad wasn’t true.

The land commissioner election is set for next November.

Read the Aubrey Dunn’s lawsuit against VeneKlasen below, or click here.

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