Friday, March 25, 2016

Plenty Of NM GOP Division With Or Without Trump; Former NM GOP Chair Yates Said To Be Planning Run Against Rogers For Committeeman Slot 

Harvey Yates, Jr.
This column is also appearing in the ABQ Free Press.

The extreme divisiveness that has wreaked havoc among Republicans over the candidacy of Donald Trump has yet to reach New Mexico but with our June 7 GOP presidential primary right around the corner that relative peace won't last, Meanwhile, never mind Trump. State Republicans are finding plenty to fight over without him. Most of it is still under the radar but about to burst and spread like spring pollen.

We've leaned from Republican insiders that former NM GOP Chairman Harvey Yates, Jr. will take the Republican infighting public when at the Republican State Convention in May he challenges ABQ attorney Pat Rogers for the position of Republican National Committeeman. Rogers is a controversial figure who has held  the job since 2008 but fractures in the Party during the Martinez administration have widened and the anti-Martinez forces are now ready to make a stand with Yates carrying their flag.

Yates, who hails from a  wealthy SE NM oil family,  has battled fiercely with powerful Martinez political consultant Jay McCleskey. McCleskey's hard ball tactics and the stranglehold he's had on state Republican politics, sanctioned by the Governor, will be at the heart of Yates' candidacy against Rogers, a longtime McCleskey ally.

The apparent Yates-Rogers face-off is a test of where the party goes in the post-Martinez era. Her term ends in 2018. Already a GOP primary between Lt, Governor John Sanchez and ABQ Mayor Richard Berry, a client of McCleskey's, appears to be shaping up. A Berry primary win, or one by another candidate McCleskey comes up with, could extend the grip Rogers, McCleskey and company have had on the Party since they pushed Martinez into the Governor's chair in 2010.

That is not an ideal outcome for numerous Republicans. A recent  FBI and federal grand jury investigation of McCleskey ended without indictments, but the wounds of that probe are sore and open. Two former Gov. Martinez fund-raisers--Andrea Goff and Cecilia Martinez--made news when they reacted to the feds failure to indict by saying they fear retribution for cooperating with the investigation that focused on McCleskey's wide ranging campaign finance activities. Goff is a fund-raiser for southern NM GOP Congressman Steve Pearce, a member of the Yates faction.

Martinez's office reacted furiously to Goff's statement, revealing the raw emotion that is behind the party split:

"Goff has proven to be a liar and a fraud who will desperately say anything to smear her political adversaries. . .The fact that she is now running to the media after her latest false attacks were completely invalidated by the documented truth underscores what we have been saying all along--this was nothing more than disgruntled hacks trying to score cheap political points at taxpayer expense."

Pat Rogers
Cheap political points or not, the Goff-Martinez break, the strong-arm tactics of McCleskey heaped on fellow Republicans, the long-stagnant economy, Martinez's widely condemned behavior at a holiday staff party and the lack of any high-profile  administration accomplishments these past five years has weakened the incumbent and her allies. She will officially become a lame duck Governor following this November's election, but if Yates takes out her friend and political fixer Rogers at the May convention, the limping could being earlier and in earnest.

As for Lt, Governor John Sanchez, he seems to sense that the months ahead could be his best chance to provide some space between himself and a Governor who might be more of a burden than a blessing when he seeks her chair. Although he ran on the same ticket with her, Martinez and Sanchez are not close and his enmity with McCleskey--her most important adviser--is well known.

Sanchez made his first big move away from Martinez's side when the UNM Regents--appointed by the Governor—this month rushed through sweeping changes to the governance and administrative structure of the UNM Health Sciences Center. He said:

"Not only were these changes made without input from key stakeholders including students, faculty, staff, and partners, but certain regents and Health Sciences Center staff were seemingly excluded from the process until just days before the public meeting."

Sanchez's open split with the UNM decision, which was backed strongest by the Regents most politically connected to Martinez, is yet another sign that with or without Donald Trump state Republicans have a fight on their hands.

This is the Home of New Mexico Politics.

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