- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—SANTA FE — A Santa Fe County Republican Party official has been removed from his post for organizing an anti-Donald Trump pinata event last week, an act the county chairwoman says violated the party’s primary election neutrality rule.

Ignacio Padilla said he plans to fight the vote removing him from his position as treasurer of the Santa Fe County GOP, adding that he organized the Trump pinata bashing as an individual act of free speech, not as a county party official.

“I have the right to challenge anything I see that offends me,” Padilla said in an interview Monday.

But county GOP Chairwoman Jo Ann Eastham said Padilla had previously been warned not to go forward with the event. She also said an internal rule requires elected party officers to remain neutral in primary elections, or contests between members of the same party.

Padilla had harsh words for Trump in a letter he submitted to the Journal last week, saying Trump has a racist attitude and blasting his “stupid insults against our Mexicans/Hispanic people, of both the United States and Mexico.”

The Santa Fe County GOP executive committee voted unanimously during a Friday evening conference call — the same day Padilla held his rally on the Santa Fe Plaza — to strip Padilla of his elected position, Eastham said.

Earlier Friday, Padilla hung a pinata that he had dressed and painted to look like Trump — complete with fake dollar bills lining his pockets — from a tree on the plaza and encouraged curious passersby and tourists to take a swing at it.

“We came to the conclusion this had gotten out of hand,” Eastham told the Journal on Monday, adding that many local Republicans had expressed concern over the planned event.

Eastham said she has appointed Michael Gallegos to fill the county treasurer post.

Trump, a billionaire businessman who is leading in the polls in a crowded field of GOP candidates, has drawn sharp criticism among some voters for comments made about Mexican immigrants and fellow Republicans, including U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

Trump has been criticized for saying that McCain is a “war hero because he was captured” and that Trump likes “people that weren’t captured.” McCain, who was the 2008 GOP presidential nominee, spent more than five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam after his plane was shot down in 1967.

Meanwhile, Padilla also told the Journal that Trump “belittled” Hispanics with his remarks that many Mexican immigrants to the United States are drug traffickers and rapists.

After the pinata was destroyed on Friday, Padilla said in a short speech that Trump was not a fit presidential candidate.

“This man is not fit to be president of this great country of ours,” Padilla told a gathering of about 20 people. “We don’t appreciate him. We don’t want him as president — he’s out.”

Although Padilla has been voted out of his Santa Fe County GOP treasurer post, he is still technically a member of the county and state Republican central committees.

A separate meeting of the Santa Fe County GOP Central Committee is planned for a vote that could lead to Padilla’s removal from those bodies.

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(c)2015 the Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, N.M.)

Visit the Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, N.M.) at www.abqjournal.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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