Folks that keep up with New Mexico politics might recognize my name. Better odds are, however, that you have no clue who I am. And if that’s the case, providing my insight on “all things political” probably won’t be of much value without some sort of introduction.
In 2013, I announced my candidacy for the U.S. Senate here in New Mexico.
With less than $2,000 dollars in the campaign account.
Oh, and that money came from my in-laws.
Did I mention I had no name recognition?
Or zero endorsements in waiting?
To top it all off, I had virtually no lead up preparation for a state wide race of that magnitude.
What I did have was a love of country, a two year old son named Roland, a mortgage, student loans, the most amazing wife in the world, and a 2000 Isuzu Hombre pick-up truck with a camper shell and missing hubcap. To be fair, I did have some grassroots victories that shook things up locally, but I had never run for public office before.
Before announcing, political insiders whispered that gubernatorial candidate and former state GOP chairman Allen Weh would run against incumbent Tom Udall.
I knew Allen Weh. Multimillionaire. Marine. Carried a bullet in his leg. He knew Karl Rove, and had the pulse of every prospective republican candidate and campaign in the state. As head of CSI Aviation, he raked in hundreds of millions of dollars in federally subsidized contracts through his relationships with the military industrial complex and cronies in Washington D.C.
I lamented with a close friend that yet again, New Mexico would have no limited government advocate on the ballot. Rather, it appeared another big government, anti-liberty establishment pick with an “R” by his name would be blindly supported by the party I was registered with. And for no better reason than that the other person had a “D” by their name. Cue up the lesser of two evils dog and pony show. Or, maybe not ….
Tired of complaining to anyone that would listen, I decided to throw a monkey wrench in the system. I decided to make my voice heard. The message? Restoring individual liberty and empowering New Mexicans to look for solutions within themselves, and the state first. In other words, replace our culture of federal dependency with one of dignity.
The bones of the operation? Prayer, coffee, and gasoline. Like New Mexico’s state motto, Crescit Eundo, we would grow [the campaign] as we go. The goal? Get on the ballot, and give New Mexicans a choice of voting for an unapologetic constitutional conservative in the primary race.
To say the least, expectations at first, were in the basement. Or the sub-basement. Political insiders snickered. Close friends and family looked at me like I had lost my mind. Perhaps they were right. I had no clue if my campaign would last a month, let alone a week. Not to be deterred, I started my campaign by buying two suits and a pair of shoes for $299. One blue. One grey. Cue the music.
Episode IV. – A New Hope
I ended up wearing those same suits almost every day for the next nine months and battled like hell with the political machine. Money was raised, endorsements came. Allen Weh had a race on his hands. As support came in from pan-conservatives and libertarians statewide, we were making our voice heard.
Now for those that don’t know, a successful U.S. Senate campaign requires millions of dollars to be competitive. My campaign spent less than $26,000 over a five month period and we nearly won the state primary convention, losing by approximately 40 to 48 votes.
Episode V. – The Empire Strikes Back
The Weh campaign was getting nervous and it showed. Eye witnesses caught the Weh campaign cheating at the Bernalillo pre-primary convention, with the campaign manager, Diego Espinoza, submitting an illegal slate of 30 absent and unregistered voters to be elected as at-large delegates. Another eye witness photographed Weh staffers collecting and counting ballots, blatantly ignoring the convention chair’s orders. The pre-convention was so chaotic that it went on past-midnight. Initially, after a protest was made, the Bernalillo county chair agreed that the at-large delegates could not be accepted. And with no explanation, they reversed course.
To make matters worse, just after the Bernalillo pre-convention, messages and phone calls came flooding in from state delegates that they were receiving the same email from my campaign email address over and over again, and if I did not stop sending it, I would lose their support at the state convention.
Confused, my campaign’s email service provider investigated the matter and learned that Diego Espinoza had masked his sender address and forwarded a Clements campaign email at least 660 times, if not thousands of times, to would-be convention delegates. Simply put, the email appeared as if it was coming from me, when in fact it was coming from Espinoza.
To me, the intent was clear. Harass the delegates into casting a vote for Weh out of pure frustration that I would not leave them alone, or alternatively, make it so the recipients would want to unsubscribe from any emails sent by my campaign. With the service report in hand, I consulted with an expert, who stated in no uncertain terms that I had been hacked. Though I would learn later that “spoofing” or “hijacking” were the more specific forms of hacking my campaign experienced.
After publically calling Espinoza out for his misconduct, he did what any Sith lord would do. He filed a frivolous lawsuit claiming defamation.
The good news? The claim was ultimately dismissed with prejudice and the case was resolved. Espinoza was unable to disprove the truthfulness of my statements or the service report linking him as the source of the hack. Espinoza also refused to provide any email service reports showing his email activity during the relevant time frame of the hack.
The bad news? My vindication would occur approximately two years too late and out of the public eye.
Espinoza is now running for a state senate seat in district 9. If you live in that district and are reading this, I would ask that you to vote for Sauron, Cersei Lannister, or Dr. Evil, before wasting your vote on that coward.
Episode VI. – Return of the Jedi?
Nope. Sadly, the Weh/Espinoza strategy worked. I could not overcome the illegal Bernalillo slate of at-large delegates, or my email’s hijacking. I’m firmly convinced that had neither occurred, I would have overcome the 40 or so votes I needed to win the convention, and would have become the presumptive nominee before the primary election.
Instead, already scarce resources dwindled. I was accused of lying about Diego Espinoza on a major media outlet mid primary election. I could not fight both a lawsuit against a team of attorneys (I represented myself), or keep up with the day-to-day requirements of the campaign trail. I would not recover from the sham lawsuit in time. I would not compete with Weh’s unlimited resources when TV ads began to air.
My in-law’s $2,000 investment ended up with me collecting roughly 38% of the Republican vote in the US Senate primary election. Not bad for a candidate whose suits now smelled like a burned down Old Spice factory.
We exceeded our goals. We got on the ballot. We gave voters a choice. But I still felt cheated.
Probably… by all the cheating.
To be sure, my choice to run against such a prominent figure did not endear me to a large segment of GOP party leadership. In fact, current State GOP chair Debbie Weh-Maestas is Allen Weh’s daughter, and was then deputy campaign manager of the very campaign manager that hijacked my email. I’ve stayed clear of the Weh faction for fear that lawyers will be dispatched seeking my ruin if I make things interesting again.
Call me dumb, but I’m hoping to make things interesting again. Probably not as a candidate, but I do want to continue the conversations I had with many of you on the campaign trail.
Episode VII. – The Force Awakens
What started off as a curious quest to see if a constitutionally conservative libertarian with zero political aspirations could get on an election ballot, ended with that same candidate returning to the workforce after a loss, and answering a lot of questions like: “Will you run again? You are you voting for? Who should I vote for? Won’t voting for a third party ensure that Hillary Clinton wins? Or Trump for that matter? What do you think of the convention of states? Do you think Axl Rose and Slash will ever reunite for a Guns N’ Roses reunion?
Only one truly definitive answer materialized. Axl and Slash did reunite. The rest of the questions are still wide open. And the Force is strong with this one.
My time in the political wilderness has officially come to an end. I’ve agreed to join the New Mexico Politico as an editor and legal analyst.
This presidential election is unlike anything we have ever seen. People are divided along socioeconomic lines, race, political ideology, religion, and science. People want answers and direction. They also desire an honest dialogue on how to ensure a better future for New Mexico and our country.
I found out quickly during my preparation for this article that there will be some struggles in facilitating meaningful conversations on politics, faith, and the liberty culture with everyone that visits this site.
Why? Real limitations in advancing genuine discourse occur when an audience learns that you have been assigned a label reducing you to a political tribe, instead of a person with independent thought and value. I expect I will have to answer frequently for the sins of having been registered as a Republican, endorsing a Libertarian philosophy, believing the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are the most precious man-made documents in human history, or having tried to reconcile my Christian faith with a political system and some really good friends that don’t agree with the way I view the world.
However, I do sincerely hope that by sharing a glimpse into my life over the past few years that you will feel comfortable sharing your thoughts and experiences with us. Our agenda is the truth. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Politicos, I look forward to learning, conversing, and doing my part to shed light on culture and politics in New Mexico. Until next time.