By Rob Nikolewski │ New Mexico Watchdog
SANTA FE – He may not have the name recognition — he certainly doesn’t have the campaign war chest — of U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, but 33-year-old David Clements says the nation fiscal problems are so severe making a run for the U.S. Senate is a chance worth taking.
“Right now, our country is in a lot of trouble, primarily because of our national debt,” Clements told New Mexico Watchdog on Tuesday as he officially announced his candidacy while traveling through Santa Fe. “It’s at $17 trillion and we’ve also seen an erosion of our civil liberties at home … Right now, I believe we’re out of time and if we don’t start solving our issues with debt, we’ll have a whole host of other problems.”
Clements, a Republican, describes himself as a “constitutional conservative” and accuses the Democrat Udall of being part of the reason for the country’s deficits and debt.
“We’re seeing a Congress that believes the federal government should have involvement in every aspect of our lives,” Clements said.
But Clements will have an uphill climb.
Udall, a former state attorney general and member of the U.S. House of Representatives before winning election in 2008 to the Senate, is well-known to New Mexico voters, and the Udall family name is part of a political dynasty in the Southwest.
On top of that, Republicans make up just 32 percent of registered voters in New Mexico.
“If anyone’s going to be competitive with Tom Udall, they need to reach independents,” Clements said. “So I’ve strived to reach relationships with civil libertarians, independents and even some jaded Democrats who aren’t happy with the Obama administration.”
Clements, the only Republican to announce for the Senate race so far, estimates it could cost $7 million to $11 million to run, but he thinks if he can raise half that he can present Udall with a credible challenge.
“If we can resonate with voters who aren’t too happy with either party, you might see a level of support that you may not have to account for when it comes to $7 million to run a race,” Clements said.
Five years ago Udall faced Republican Steve Pearce, who had a good deal of name recognition and some healthy funding on the campaign trail, yet Udall won in a romp, getting 61.3 percent of the vote. What makes Clements think his campaign would be any different?
“Well, I don’t know if I’m going to be any different but I’m going to try,” Clements said, adding that the country’s fiscal condition needs to be fixed. “I’m basically scared for my family, my friends, and desperate times sometimes require desperate measures. That’s one of the reasons I’m running for the Senate.”
Clements is a prosecutor in Las Cruces but says he’ll step down and devote his time to campaigning. He’s never held elected public office but he now chairs the Dona Ana Republican Party — he says he’ll resign from that, as well.
“I want to tell people the truth and let them make up their own minds,” Clements said. “I don’t want to win if I have to tell people what they want to hear, as opposed to the truth.”
Here’s our New Mexico Watchdog interview with Clements:
Contact Rob Nikolewski at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @robnikolewski