- Associated Press - Saturday, May 21, 2016

SANDIA PUEBLO, N.M. (AP) - New Mexico Republicans voted out a representative to the party’s national committee on Saturday in a leadership shake-up tied to frustrations over the state’s lagging economy and hardball tactics against Democrats.

Oilman and former state GOP chairman Harvey Yates unseated Albuquerque attorney Pat Rogers by a vote of 278-195 among local delegates at a state Republican Party convention on the outskirts of Albuquerque.

Yates turned the race for the internal party post into a forum on the state’s lagging economy and employment situation. He openly criticized Gov. Susana Martinez and her lead political strategist, Jay McCleskey, for political tactics that he contends have stifled debate and solutions on the economy.

“I’m not a state elected official, but I intend to assist others in creating a grass-roots demand that we get these problems solved,” Yates said after his selection. “I intend to go around the state and talk about the question of how do we get the state turned around, how do we create jobs, what is necessary.”

Yates said he tapped into discontent about Republican political tactics that he traces to consultant McCleskey.

“A number of folks who voted for me have either suffered or been aware of his great lack of civility, which has carried over to the administration,” Yates said. “I’m not sure that that lack of civility is inherent in the governor herself. But if there is no civility, there is no discussion.”

A spokesman for the governor’s office pointed out the Martinez was elected chairwoman of the Republican delegation to the national convention and downplayed the role of committeeman. “This is an irrelevant post, and that is why the governor didn’t bother to get involved,” spokesman Michael Lonergan said.

McCleskey declined to comment Saturday.

In a speech opening the convention, Martinez said Republicans are striving to diversify the state economy and reduce dependence on federal spending.

The committeeman post offers a direct line of communication with the national GOP and possible influence over the money and attention lavished on the local party infrastructure and election efforts.

State Republicans are gearing up to defend their majority in the state House of Representatives and aim to take control of the Senate.

Rogers - known for decades of legal work on behalf of state political candidates, redistricting initiatives, and presidential ballot-counting efforts - has held the committeeman post since 2008. He will retain the seat until after the Republican National Convention in July, where he automatically serves as a New Mexico delegate.

Also on Saturday, the convention selected 21 delegates to send to the national convention in Cleveland at their own expense, along with 21 alternates. The state party chairwoman and two national committee members also act as delegates.

Public endorsements for Yates’s candidacy included U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, the lone Republican in New Mexico’s congressional delegation. The congressman’s wife, Cynthia Pearce, gave a short speech Saturday urging the convention to back Yates.

Yates, a third-generation oilman from Artesia with an extended family of devout GOP patrons and fundraisers, said he hopes to meet with county Republican groups to discuss employment and education issues, and he wants some Democrats to be invited.

“We won’t be successful without them,” he told Republicans before being picked as committeeman.

Gov. Martinez took the stage before more than 600 convention participants and guests, lambasting Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton - without mentioning Donald Trump. The presumptive Republican nominee plans to campaign in New Mexico on Tuesday.

Martinez has said previously that she is not ready to support Trump and wants to hear about his plans to protect the state’s military bases.

Republican National Committeewoman Rosie Tripp of Socorro told the convention that it was essential that all Republicans, from volunteer activists to office holders, support Trump’s bid.

Copyright © 2017 The Washington Times, LLC.

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