Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Heinrich backs VeneKlasen for State Land Office

By Bruce Krasnow

The Democratic primary election for state land commissioner is a year away, but political newcomer Garrett VeneKlasen bagged a coveted endorsement Tuesday from U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich. VeneKlasen, executive director of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation and a Taos resident, is running for the Democratic nomination against Ray Powell, who was land commissioner for about 15 years during two tours in office. Powell in 2014 lost a bid for re-election to the post to Republican Aubrey Dunn. Heinrich, a Democrat who is running for re-election next year, took the unusual step of injecting himself into a competitive party primary. The first-term senator pointed to a long-running but so far failed initiative to use a portion of the state's $16 billion land grant endowment to expand funding for early childhood education. "At this critical time for our state, Garrett knows that investing in early childhood education is not a luxury, but rather a necessity," Heinrich said in a statement. "This is why I am endorsing Garrett VeneKlasen for commissioner of public lands. I trust Garrett to do the right thing for our land, our kids and our future." VeneKlasen said he supports increasing distributions from the Land Grant Permanent Fund and plans to meet with supporters this week to learn more about the various proposals. They range from taking an additional 1 percent to 3 percent a year from the fund. "I would like to see it responsibly increase, and that money go to early childhood education," VeneKlasen said...more

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