The campaign manager for US Senate candidate Allen Weh has filed a defamation lawsuit  in District Court against opponent David Clements in what’s quickly turned into a bitter Republican Party primary. Meanwhile, the Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Office is investigating allegations that Diego Espinoza, Weh’s campaign manager, hacked Clements’ email account for political purposes.

Clements is a 34-year-old attorney and former Doña Ana County Republican Party chairman who’s running a Senate campaign based on a libertarian-leaning ideological platform. Weh, 71, is a retired Marine colonel who owns a defense contracting company and is a former state Republican Party chairman. When it comes to money advantages and name recognition, Weh outmatches Clements.

But earlier this month, Clements captured nearly half of the delegate vote at the state Republican Party preprimary convention, surprising political observers expecting a Weh landslide. Shortly before the convention, Clements alleged that Espinoza masked his email address and mass forwarded emails to delegates that appeared to be coming from Clements’ campaign as part of a strategy to alienate Republican delegates.

Espinoza denies the hacking allegations, arguing that they’ve caused him “public and personal humiliation” and could prevent him from potential job promotions from his role as a site supervisor at CSI Aviations, the Albuquerque-based air defense contractor where Weh serves as CEO. Clements, however, dismisses the lawsuit as nothing more than “the establishment protecting themselves.” 

After learning of the lawsuit, he took his email hacking allegations to the Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Office criminal investigations division, which opened up a formal investigation.