July 28, 2012 in City

Three vie for lands commissioner

Nicholas K. Geranios Associated Press

Republican rancher Clint Didier did not think too much about the office of state lands commissioner until he noticed that incumbent Democrat Peter Goldmark was not facing serious opposition.

Didier, a tea party favorite, realized no Republican had filed to challenge Goldmark, so he jumped into the race just two hours before the filing deadline.

“This is way too important to be mismanaged,” said Didier, a rancher and former NFL player with two Super Bowl rings.

The lands commissioner controls 1 million acres of farmland, 2 million acres of forestland and 2.6 million acres of aquatic lands, Didier said. One of his jobs is to use those lands in a productive manner to produce money for various state operations.

“These lands are not being managed in a husband-like manner,” Didier contended. “We are not producing optimum revenues for school systems.”

Goldmark disputes Didier’s remarks, contending he has done a good job of steering the Department of Natural Resources through the recession, and deserves a second term.

“I’ve recovered one of our primary timber accounts from the brink, reduced state management fees to send more money directly to the beneficiaries, and directed $10 million back to cash-strapped counties that were in desperate need of support in these tough economic times,” Goldmark said.

He also questioned Didier’s qualifications and desire for the job.

“From what I know, he is unqualified to lead an agency of this size,” Goldmark said.

“I’m appalled he filed at the last minute,” Goldmark added. “That’s not a very strong starting point.”

There is a third candidate for the job in independent Stephen Sharon, of South Seattle, but most observers figure Goldmark and Didier will be the top two vote-getters in the August primary and advance to the general election in November.

Goldmark said the state’s budget woes have been a major challenge.

He said he has had to make big decisions, such as laying off 10 percent of staff, and smaller ones, such as eliminating coffee service at board meetings, to balance the budget.

The agency must spend money to prepare for timber sales, which produce more than $200 million in annual revenues for a special fund to build schools across the state, Goldmark said.

Didier is a farmer and rancher in Franklin County, and ran unsuccessfully for the GOP Senate nomination in the 2010 election. Didier said he was called two days before the filing deadline by a friend who advised him to look at the scope of the lands commissioner job and the politics of Goldmark. That’s when he decided to run.

© Copyright 2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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