- Associated Press - Friday, September 25, 2015

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - The New Mexico Republican Party unveiled plans Friday to build a grass-roots strategy it says will help the GOP presidential nominee and keep the state House under the party’s control.

The effort aims to help put the state in play for Republicans in 2016, months after their historic victories in in local elections in the nation’s most Hispanic state, New Mexico party chairwoman Debbie Maestas said. The state typically has swung Democratic in national elections.

Under the GOP’s “New Mexico Grassroots Initiative,” the party will offer extensive training workshops to help local leaders become professional field organizers.

It’s modeled after the Republican National Committee’s “Republican Leadership Initiative” but more tailored to the needs of New Mexico, Maestas said.

“In the past, we had a top-down approach. This is a bottom-up approach,” Maestas said. “Everyone will feel vested. We are empowering our volunteers to play a part.”

Last year, the GOP captured the New Mexico House for the first time in 60 years and Republican Gov. Susana Martinez won re-election by a record margin.

However, Republicans have failed to win New Mexico in the last three of four presidential elections. In 2012, Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s campaign closed its New Mexico operations after only a few days when polls showed he was trailing President Barack Obama.

With the new initiative, the Republican nominee already will have infrastructure in place and New Mexico will be a more attractive state to dedicate resources, Maestas said.

Scott Tillman, a spokesman for the Democratic Party of New Mexico, said state Republicans claim they have new plans every presidential election cycle that don’t amount to much.

“They’ll say they have a new database. They’ll say they have a new ground game,” Tillman said. “And we stay blue. So, I’m not worried. We’re good.”

He said Republicans also will face a hard time winning the state next year because of the heated rhetoric between presidential contenders. Tillman also cited GOP hopeful Donald Trump’s disparaging comments about Mexican immigrants and his call for mass deportations as reasons local Hispanic voters will be turned off by the party.

Maestas blushed off Democrats’ charges and said whoever the Republicans pick next year will be well positioned in New Mexico.

“We’re on the offensive now,” she said. “We are no longer on the defensive.”


Follow Russell Contreras on Twitter at https://twitter.com/russcontreras .

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