Gwynne Ann Unruh is an award-winning reporter formerly of the Alamosa Valley Courier, an independent paper in southern Colorado. She covers the environment for The Paper.


The Public Lands Commissioner is a show me the money position with follow the money trails all around the state. This 2022 election year, the role of commissioner of public lands was being sought by Independent write-in candidate Larry Marker, Democratic incumbent Stephanie Garcia Richard and Republican candidate Jefferson L. Byrd.

Responsible for administering 9 million surface acres and 13 million subsurface acres of land, the office uses state trust land to raise revenue for New Mexico public schools, hospitals, colleges and other public institutions. Since 1899 the position of Commissioner of Public Lands has been held 21 times by Democrats, 7 times by Republicans and once by a Libertarian.

Make that 22 times for Democrats. As of press time, incumbent Stephanie Garcia Richard had just been reelected by a percentage of 54.12 compared to Byrd’s 45.8 percent. Going into the election Garcia Richard was way ahead in funding with over $400,000 in contributions, compared to Byrd’s $46,650 and Marker’s $15,000.

Marker went going all out to ensure he has an accurate count of his vote. He petitioned the United States District Court for the State of New Mexico (Case #22-CV-784KG-KRS) against the State of New Mexico, the Office of the Governor, the Office of the Secretary of State and the Office of the Attorney General requesting that the court issue an emergency temporary restraining order that would bar the state of New Mexico from using the existing uncertified and equivalent double voting system to tabulate the New Mexico general election on November 8 2022, pending the conclusion of judiciary action on case No. S-1-SC-39578.

On September 22, 2022 Marker filed with the Supreme Court of the state of New Mexico an “Expedited Petition for Writ of Mandamus” that will instruct the New Mexico Secretary of State to decertify existing New Mexico voting. A writ of mandamus is a remedy that can be used to compel a lower court to perform an act that is ministerial in nature and that the court has a clear duty to do under law.

Last month, the court denied his petition.