Dan McKay | Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE — New Mexicans can expect to hear an awful lot more on TV about the race to serve as New Mexico’s next land commissioner.

It’s already expected to be one of the closest contests on the ballot this year, with Democrat Stephanie Garcia Richard and Republican Pat Lyons separated by just 2 percentage points in a Journal Poll last month.

The latest advertisement was launched this week by Verde Voters Fund, a political action committee affiliated with Conservation Voters New Mexico, which promotes protection of the environment.

The $300,000 ad buy targets Lyons, a former land commissioner, and accuses him of favoring developers and attempting to cut off access to outdoor spaces.

“Developers love him, but you won’t,” the ad’s narrator said. “He gave them our land, flew on their plane, pushed through their deals, and took big campaign money.”

The advertisement cites work by NMPolitics.net, a nonpartisan website run by Heath Haussamen, a journalist based in Las Cruces.

Haussamen reported in 2007 that Lyons flew on a developer’s plane to a college basketball game. A spokeswoman for Lyons said at the time that the land commissioner had thought New Mexico State University had chartered the plane.

Also that year, the Journal reported that a PAC, largely funded by the same developer and led by a Santa Fe lobbyist representing that developer, gave Lyons’ 2006 re-election campaign nearly $20,000. The contributions came in the months before Lyons signed a lease with the developer.

Lyons said at the time that the PAC contributions didn’t affect his office’s decision and that he didn’t know the source of the contributions, in any case. The deal was a good one for New Mexico, he said.

Lyons said Thursday that he’s ready to work with the private sector, but with the state’s best interest in mind.

“That’s how we generate our revenue,” he said. “That’s how we make New Mexico work — it’s the private sector. … You don’t cut any deals. You do what’s best for New Mexico.”

Lyons added that he has worked to promoted access to the outdoors, not restrict it.

Garcia Richard also faces negative ads. A political group backed by oil companies has reported spending about $600,000 on TV and online ads targeting her.

Libertarian Michael Lucero is also running for land commissioner.