Republican Clarkson announces U.S. Senate bid

Gavin Clarkson

Former Trump administration official Gavin Clarkson, who last year was defeated in his bid to become New Mexico’s secretary of state and foiled in his efforts to win Southern New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District seat, announced Tuesday he will run for the U.S. Senate in 2020.

Clarkson is the first Republican to announce plans to seek the seat being vacated by Democrat Tom Udall, who said last month he will not seek a third term.

“There are far too many people here who feel that they do not have a voice,” Clarkson, 50, said in an interview with The New Mexican.

The Las Cruces resident said he believes many moderate Democrats will join Republicans in backing him because they oppose state gun control laws that they believe violate the Second Amendment and oppose late-term abortions, among other issues.

He said he supports President Donald Trump’s plan to wall off the U.S. border with Mexico and that more must be done to address the challenge of undocumented immigrants entering the country. He said he believes many border crossers falsely seek asylum status.

An enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation, Clarkson served as deputy assistant secretary in Trump’s U.S. Interior Department for six months in 2017. He resigned in November of that year, announcing his run for the Congressional seat. That action followed a department inspector general report that questioned a tribal loan program he had run as a contractor before his appointment.

Clarkson filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against New Mexico State University, saying officials unfairly fired him from his position as an associate professor in the College of Business when he started his congressional campaign. The lawsuit alleged racial and religious discrimination because he is a pro-life Christian and a tribal member.

Though the judge in that case dismissed it for lack of prosecution on March 29, any party in the case may still move for reinstatement within 30 days of that order. Clarkson said Tuesday he plans to file an amended complaint before the deadline.

Clarkson holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Rice University and both a doctorate in business and a law degree from Harvard University.

Meanwhile, District Attorney Marco Serna of Santa Fe said Tuesday that he’s inching closer to throwing his hat into the ring for the Northern New Mexico congressional seat being vacated by Democratic U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., who is campaigning to succeed Udall in the Senate.

Serna, who won election as district attorney for Santa Fe, Rio Arriba and Los Alamos counties in 2016, said he has formed an “exploratory committee” of friends, constituents, family members, law enforcement officials, business leaders and others to “reach out to voters in the district to see what they want out of their future congressman or congresswoman or to what extent they want me to run.”

“I think I can bring a great understanding of the needs of Northern New Mexico,” said Serna, who turned 36 on Tuesday.

He said he’s trying to raise $5,000 to $10,000 to fund efforts to reach out to the public about his potential run, including sending out letters and scheduling public forums. Serna, the son of a well-known Democratic Party figure who made an unsuccessful run for Congress in the late ’90s, said he has already discussed the notion with his family and, “They are all very supportive.”

Serna said that if he does run it will add “more time on my plate” as he continues to hold the job of district attorney.

General Assignment Reporter

Robert Nott has covered education and youth issues for the Santa Fe New Mexican. He is assigned to The New Mexican's city desk where he covers a general assignment beat.