By Rob Nikolewski │ New Mexico Watchdog
ALBUQUERQUE – The battle for the right to take on U.S. Senator Tom Udall was officially joined Saturday.
Now Allen Weh and David Clements have a little more than three months to convince New Mexico Republicans which one of them represents the best hope to knock off Udall, an incumbent Democrat, in the November general election.
The Weh-Clements race was the marquee matchup Saturday at the New Mexico Republican pre-primary convention in Albuquerque, with Weh taking the majority of the votes from GOP delegates.
But it was a close race, with Weh winning 53.17 percent of the delegates and Clements taking 46.83 percent.
“I tell you what, 53 (percent) wins this thing and I was very happy,” Weh said. “Because I’ve only been a candidate for 52 days and that’s the instructive, relevant point to the win in my view. And I’m the guy that had to go through these 52 days ago with nothing.”
“A lot of people were saying we weren’t going to get on the ballot and we weren’t going to reach 20 percent of the delegates,” Clements said. “My opponent was telling people they had a 70-30 percent advantage going in so … we’re quite encouraged.”
The pre-primary convention carries no electoral weight but is a good measure to see how candidates in contested primaries stack up against each other.
The statewide primary elections are set for June 3.
In 2010, Weh lost the GOP nomination for governor to Susana Martinez and as a former chairman of the New Mexico Republican Party, he’s a well-known figure across the state. As founder and CEO of CSI Aviation, Weh is considered to have deep pockets.
“You don’t get votes at a pre-primary convention with a bankroll,” Weh said. “You get it the old-fashioned way — talking to people. Money has nothing to do with this pre-primary election.”
A former prosecutor, Clements is making his first run for statewide office, has much lower name-recognition across the state and is considered to represent the more libertarian wing of the party.
“I don’t really assign a label to myself,” Clements said. “We just go out and kind of fight for what we believe in and the response has been pretty overwhelming.”
In the only other contested race for delegates on Saturday, Mike Frese (pronounced “freeze”) defeated Richard Priem 63.46 percent to 36.53 percent as the delegates’ preferred choice to carry the GOP standard against Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham in the 1st Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, which is made up of Albuquerque and the central part of the state.
“I’m thrilled to have the support of the delegates,” Frese told New Mexico Watchdog. “Now this election is behind us and it’s time to win the primary and win the general.”
“I have the message, I have the organization and I have the vision to win in November,” Priem told the delegates.
Gov. Martinez and Steve Pearce, of the 2nd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, have no primary opposition and delivered remarks to the crowd at the Albuquerque Marriott.
Among the others giving speeches and getting formally nominated by acclamation were:
*Susan Riedel (pronounced REED-el), running for Attorney General
*Dianna Duran, running for re-election as Secretary of State
*Rick Lopez, running for State Treasurer
*Robert Aragon, running for State Auditor, and
*Aubrey Dunn Jr., running for State Land Commissioner
Democrats will have their pre-primary convention next Saturday outside Albuquerque.
Contact Rob Nikolewski at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @robnikolewski