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GOP elects new chair

New Mexico Republican Party activists on Saturday elected Albuquerque businesswoman Debbie Maestas to serve as the party’s next chairwoman.

Maestas, 42, is the daughter of Republican Senate candidate Allen Weh and served as Weh’s deputy campaign manager in his unsuccessful challenge to Democratic Sen. Tom Udall this year.

Debbie Maestas

MAESTAS: Wants state party to raise more money, attract more diverse demographic

Looking to extend the gains the Republican Party made in other New Mexico elections – including winning control of the state House of Representatives for the first time in more than 60 years – Maestas said Republicans need to become better unified and more effective at raising money.

“The party, it needs enthusiasm and it needs energy, but first and foremost it needs money,” Maestas told members of the party’s central committee who cast votes during a meeting at Hotel Albuquerque on Saturday.

Specifically, Maestas called for the party to strive toward raising at least $1 million to benefit its candidates, a total more than three times greater than the $319,000 the state party reports raising since the end of 2012.

“The party’s goal, their responsibility, is to raise money so that we can support our candidates who are out there running,” Maestas told reporters after being named chairwoman. “The party doesn’t need to be the organization that has the platform, they need to be the organization that is the support … We need to be strong and make sure candidates and county (Republican) chairs have what they need.”

Republicans, who account for about 31 percent of the state’s registered voters, need to continue efforts to diversify the party’s base of supporters, Maestas said. Led by Republican Gov. Susana Martinez, the nation’s first Hispanic female governor, the party expanded its reach in 2014, but Maestas said there’s more to do.

“We need more Hispanics, more women, more young folks. It’s not about (being) the typical Republican Party,” she said. “We must evolve.”

Winning the vote of the New Mexico Republican Party’s central committee, Maestas beat out Torrance County Republican Party chairman Rick Lopez and campaign staffer Max Barnett, who worked for Republican Mike Frese in his unsuccessful bid for the 1st Congressional District seat last month.

Maestas replaces state party chairman John Billingsley, who announced after the election that he did not plan to seek a second two-year term to lead the Republicans.

Other state officers elected Saturday by New Mexico Republican Party members included first vice chairman Richard Luarkie, the governor of Laguna Pueblo, and second vice chairman Phil Archuleta.