- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 18, 2016

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - A ban on journalists at the New Mexico Republican Party convention has been reversed by Native American leaders overseeing a casino where the event will be held, GOP officials announced Wednesday.

Republican officials said they were caught by surprise Tuesday when officials at Sandia Pueblo announced it was against tribal council policy to have news media at Sandia Resort & Casino and that journalists could not attend the convention.

State GOP spokesman Tucker Keene said the party protested and that Sandia Pueblo Gov. Isaac Lujan agreed to take the matter up with the Tribal Council.

“We are glad that Sandia Pueblo has reconsidered,” Keene said. “We had not been made aware of this no-press policy when we signed our contract.”

The initial media ban triggered concerns about secretive decisions during a turbulent primary election season.

The convention on Saturday will decide a heated contest for a seat on the Republican National Committee that has veered into recriminations about the state economy and criticism of New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and her top political adviser.

Albuquerque attorney Pat Rogers is seeking to extend his eight-year stint as a Republican National Committeeman. He is being challenged by former party chairman and Artesia-based oilman Harvey Yates.

Republicans also are picking delegates to the Republican National Convention, where businessman Donald Trump has emerged as the presumptive nominee for president.

Convention organizers originally planned to charge journalists $100 to defray costs, but they waived the fee, explaining in a statement that “it was never their intent to discourage press from attending.”

State political conventions for both major parties, from Alaska to Georgia, have opened their doors to the media with few restrictions.

The New Mexico Democratic Party held its pre-primary convention in March without restrictions on news coverage at the Isleta Resort & Casino on the southern outskirts of Albuquerque.

GOP spokesman Keene said that nothing appeared amiss Sunday when a Sandia official asked for a list of media outlets that would be attending the Republican convention. On Tuesday morning, Sandia Pueblo informed him that journalists were not allowed.

This is the first time the Republican Party has held its convention at Sandia Resort.

State Democrats will select national delegates at a convention on June 25 at the Albuquerque Convention Center.


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