The two people behind the election denial movement in New Mexico

A look at public presentation and online personas of the Clements, who speak around the state and country promoting conspiracy theories

By: - July 19, 2022 4:00 am

Erin Clements (left) and her husband David spar vocally with a member of the audience during a Monday, May 9 special Otero County Commission meeting. (Screenshot via the commission)

David Clements said it’s time to start the executions.

Speaking to a crowd of dozens at the Gospel Light Baptist Church in Rio Rancho, Clements and his wife Erin outlined their theories that the 2020 election was stolen and told the crowd that massive voter fraud is a pervasive problem in New Mexico’s election system today. Then David Clements told the crowd what he thinks should be done to fix it.

“You have to search your own conscience on how you’re going to vote, if you want to call it voting,” he said in a video of the February event posted to a far-right social media site by the Sandoval County GOP. “I’m in the frame of mind that we’ve got enough evidence to have indictments, people tried for treason and have the remedy of firing squads. That’s what we need, and we need to focus on that.” The remark drew a round of applause from the audience.

David and Erin Clements have positioned themselves as the leading figures of the so-called “election integrity” movement in New Mexico, traveling the state and the country telling voters and elected officials that the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump, and that a shadowy cabal of Democrats and voting-machine corporations are working to steal the next election. 

A recent analysis by NPR found that David Clements has spoken in at least 25 states at more than 60 different events since Jan. 6, 2021. In New Mexico, Source NM found that the Clements have spoken publicly or privately to election officials in at least five counties, and their often-debunked claims spurred county commissioners in Otero, Sandoval and Torrance Counties to refuse or delay certification of June’s primary election results. 

The Clements are the driving force behind what N.M. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver calls a “vigilante audit” of the 2020 election in Otero County, where Trump actually won by a wide margin. The Clements are leading the audit, and have frequently updated the County Commission about its progress since it began in January. 

This story is the first part in a series. Find the followup story that dives into the Clements’ claims tomorrow.

They also provided the rationale for the Otero County Commission’s June vote to remove ballot boxes from the county, perform a full-hand recount of the primary results and discontinue the use of voting machines. 

In a letter to Attorney General Hector Balderas recommending criminal investigation of the commissioners, Toulouse Oliver said those actions were “not permitted or are unlawful pursuant to the explicit terms of the election code.”

David Clements, a former professor at New Mexico State University who was fired for refusing to comply with COVID-19 mandates, has raised more than $300,000 on the far-right crowdfunding site GiveSendGo. His wife Erin, an engineer by training, often accompanies him when he speaks and runs PowerPoint presentations filled with half-truths and outright falsehoods about the election system, including debunked conspiracy theories about Dominion Voting Systems and repeating false claims from “2000 Mules,” a discredited film that asserts that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump and that’s been referenced in the Jan. 6 hearings. 

No comment

David Clements declined over email to be interviewed for this article or answer specific questions from Source New Mexico. In an email, he referred to this reporter as a “propagandist” and then said he would only respond to questions if Source New Mexico appeared on his podcast to ask them. Erin Clements did not respond to emailed requests for comment.

The day after he invited Source New Mexico to appear on his podcast, he posted a message to his Telegram attacking the outlet as a “Marxist rag.” 

“Ever since the government funded NPR (National Propaganda Radio) hit piece, there has been an uptick in propagandists posing as journalists requesting interviews, or requesting advance notice of events I’ll be speaking at. Washington Post, Source NM, etc. to name the latest. I’ve been tempted to give them a location in the middle of a cornfield with the company of a scarecrow,” he wrote.

Presenting to election officials at public meetings, the Clements drown listeners in reams of data, charts and figures and speak in highly technical language about cast vote records and risk-limiting audits. On David Clements’ personal Telegram feed, however, his posts strike a very different tone to his 114,000 followers. 

There, Clements frequently posts support for convicted Capitol rioters, calling them political prisoners and exhorting his followers to send them letters and money. His feed contains an array of conspiracy theories and often racist language, such as a recent re-post referring to White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, who is Black, as a “diversity hire” or one of Clements’ own posts claiming New Mexico State University was a “breeding ground” for critical race theory, which Clements wrote “embraces race warfare.”

Clements leans into the alt-right aesthetic on his Telegram channel, posting pictures of himself surrounded by guns and a drawing of himself as a heavily armed Groyper, a cartoon frog associated with white nationalist internet personality Nick Fuentes. He posts frequent links to far-right conspiracy site the Gateway Pundit, and embraces numerous conspiracy theories outside the election realm. A couple of weeks ago, he celebrated the bombing of the mysterious monument known as the Georgia Guidestones, writing on Telegram that “The stones came down. And that makes this guy happy … The guidestones are satanic. So are the rigged election machines.”

Clements also uses his Telegram channel to target specific election officials that he feels have crossed him. In June, he posted a photograph, email and phone number for Sandoval County Commission Chair Michael Meek, a Republican, after Meek asked for Clements’ supporters to be cleared from the commission chambers when they attempted to disrupt the vote to certify the primary results. 

And he maintains a separate Telegram channel for his supporters to chat with each other, which is filled with messages often even more extreme than those found in his main chat. A search for the word “Jews” turns up 571 messages posted in the chat, overwhelmingly antisemitic, with many spreading neo-Nazi conspiracy theories about “khazarian Jews.” A search of the chat also returns numerous messages with slurs for African Americans, Asians, Hispanics and LGBTQ folks. 

Contacted by email, Meek requested Source New Mexico let him know the number a reporter would be calling from, because “Clements has made cold answering difficult.” In an interview, Meek said he has not received any specific threats but “There was a bunch of calls after that meeting. I got inundated with calls from that fan base of his.” He described the calls as “an intimidation tactic.” Most of the calls, he said, came from outside Sandoval County, and many were from out of state. 

Meek has heard the Clements out, but he’s not convinced by their claims of voter fraud. “More than double of the actual information (about elections) was what I thought would be derogatory, calling names, talking about people in derogatory terms,” he said. 

Sandoval County Commissioner Jay Block, a Clements ally who voted against certifying the June primary results, said he was unaware that Clements had targeted his fellow commissioner. “I don’t know how he’s targeting commissioner Meek. I have no idea what you’ve seen,” Block said. “I’m not sure if commissioner Meek said he was intimidated or threatened.” 

Clements is unapologetic about the threats and harassment elected officials receive from members of the “election integrity” movement. When Toulouse Oliver, a frequent Clements target, told local media she had received threats against her life following the election-canvass standoff in June, Clements reposted a message on his Telegram calling her “Maggie Smollett,” a reference to actor Jussie Smollett who was convicted of faking a hate crime against himself. 

Alex Curtas, a spokesperson for the Secretary of State’s Office, said they haven’t linked the specific threats against Toulouse Oliver to the Clements, but that in general the volume of harassing and threatening calls the office receives increases whenever the Clements talk about Toulouse Oliver.

“I think we can infer that because he’s activating people like that or we’re in the media, we do see an uptick of these harassing calls that are based on these threads of misinformation,” he said. “I think it would be quite ignorant of him and anyone who shares in these strategies to think that their incessant lying about elections and election administrators wouldn’t have a real impact.”

Asked about Clements’ comments advocating for firing squads, Block said he was unaware of that statement. “There’s two sides, you got to be a little more balanced,” he said. “Did you ask the governor if she favors intimidating Supreme Court justices?” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has not encouraged intimidating Supreme Court justices, and none of the justices live in New Mexico.

At the Sandoval County Commission’s next meeting following the certification of the election, in late June, Block sponsored a resolution calling on the state to, among other things, remove all “unsupervised” ballot boxes and require post-election audits of at least 10% of all precincts in each election. The resolution passed 3-2 on a party line vote, with Republican commissioners including Meek voting for it and Democratic commissioners voting against.

When the Clements presented to the Lincoln County Commission in June at the invitation of Lincoln County Commissioner Elaine Allen, Republican Commissioner Tom Stewart was also inundated with phone calls and emails, though he says they weren’t threatening. Stewart listened to their presentation, but he didn’t buy the Clements’ assertion that the election was rigged. (Allen did not respond to a request for comment). 

“All these conspiracy theories and we have yet to see one serious presentation with ‘Aha, here’s the evidence,’” Stewart said. As for the phone calls, “whenever you do something that runs against the Clements of the world, you’re going to take grief from fringe characters. And as far as I’m concerned, they’re fringe characters.” 

Stewart said when his term in the County Commission is up in 2023, he’s going to change his registration from Republican to independent or decline to state, in part due to his disgust with the Clements and their followers. 


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Andrew Beale
Andrew Beale

Andrew Beale has 15 years of reporting experience, starting with the UNM Daily Lobo. He's reported for national and international publications including the New York Times, Vice and al-Jazeera from locations as far-flung as Portland and Palestine. He has a master's degree from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, and he resides in Southern California.