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Monday, December 22, 2014

Clements to fight Udall for seat

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By Aaron Sweet / New Mexico Daily Lobo

Republican David Clements speaks about his decision to run for a U.S. Senate seat in 2014 on Saturday. Clements will formally announce his decision to challenge Democratic Sen. Tom Udall for his seat at 10 a.m. today.

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David Clements’ dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs on Capitol Hill, even from his own Republican Party, sparked his interest to run for a U.S. Senate seat in 2014.

At 10 a.m. today from his Las Cruces home, Clements will formally announce his decision to challenge Democratic Sen. Tom Udall for his seat next year. Clements will also attend a Santa Fe Women’s Club meeting tonight after the announcement.

While today marks his official campaign kickoff, Clements, 33, said he has been visiting locations around New Mexico to campaign for the last four to five weeks. Clements already has a website and a Facebook account for the campaign, although he is still in the process of seeking petition signatures.

“I feel like I identify more with the outsider that is wondering what is going on with the party,” Clements said in an interview with the Daily Lobo on Friday. “I’ve gotten a quick education over the past four years about what’s going on with the Republican Party.”

Clements said he has not held political office besides his current Doña Ana Republican Party chairmanship. Part of his mission, he said, is to grow the Republican Party to draw independents, libertarians and even conservative Democrats into the fold.

The economy is among Clements’ primary concerns. The current debt level that the government faces is simply unsustainable, he said.

“We’re borrowing and we’re borrowing at interest,” he said. “At some point, this debt burden is going to be too much. The average taxpayer, we’re on the hook for $140,000 apiece. That’s not something that’s responsible. It doesn’t help people who need help.”

Clements said voters from both the Republican and the Democratic Parties have unfavorable opinions about the jobs done by elected leaders. He said he has talked to Democrats who believe President Barack Obama has not lived up to his campaign promises, but Clements said spending under Republican President George W. Bush also ran amuck.

Clements may be in the minority among Republicans because he believes the federal government needs to take a hard look at defense spending, particularly with foreign installations that date back to World War II, he said. He said the government should also examine the Department of Education, an area traditionally left to state governments.

“As a Constitutional conservative, I would start with looking at what are the essential functions of the federal government,” he said. “I guess the benefit of leaving it to the states, most states have balanced budget amendments so they have to live within their means. At the federal level, we don’t.”

Clements works as an assistant district attorney for the Sixth Judicial District Attorney’s office. A resident of New Mexico since 2001, Clements received a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology from New Mexico State University in 2006 and owned a business, Clements Myotherapy. He earned a Juris Doctor in 2010 from the UNM School of Law, and closed his business after his acceptance to law school.

As he focused on business law during his time in school, the housing crisis hit in 2008. Clements said that like many, he wondered what caused the crisis and why nobody seemed to understand the inner workings involved. The pursuit of those answers led to an interest in the federal government, he said.

“People say ‘Well, why don’t we raise taxes on people who make more than $250,000? They can afford it.’ You figure out that you can tax everyone at 100 percent tax rate and you couldn’t put a dent in the national debt,” he said. “That caused some confusion on why aren’t we asking different questions.”

Clements said his wife, Erin, works as a civil engineer. The couple has a 3-year-old son, Roland.

Udall won his Senate seat in 2008 after serving as New Mexico’s Third Congressional District representative since 1998, according to Udall’s biography on his website. Prior to that, Udall was the state’s attorney general.

Clements said he wants to run a grassroots campaign, but he expects a tough race.

“Voters will identify with someone who shares their values, shares their struggles and isn’t coming at this from a partisan standpoint,” he said. “Even though I’m a Republican, I’m more solutions-oriented than just the talking points.”