Now he is a criminal defendant fighting for his reputation and his freedom.
Estrada is scheduled to be arraigned Monday in U.S. District Court. He is accused of 14 counts of stealing Gov. Susana Martinez's emails and lying about it to the FBI.
Estrada, 40, managed Martinez's campaign for the last six months of 2009. She was still a district attorney then. Estrada was part of her inner circle during the early months of her run for governor.
Martinez says she fired Estrada in December 2009, but he maintained access to an Internet account that she and her aides used for political and personal email.
The federal indictment of Estrada alleges that he refused to turn over usernames and passwords for the account when he left the campaign.
Prosecutors say that Estrada then pirated the emails of Martinez and others. They allege that he even created a false identity -- calling himself Sylvia Tacori of Denver -- to re-register the Internet account so he could continue collecting messages intended for Martinez and her staff.
For his part, Estrada says Martinez never fired him, and that he did nothing illegal or improper.
The law says Estrada, like every other defendant, is innocent unless proven guilty. But the reality is that being charged with a crime, especially in a high-profile case, damages a person's reputation.
Just think of those Duke lacrosse players being paraded into court, cameras clicking, for context on how damaging a mere allegation can be. The defendants at Duke were cleared, but their names forever were associated with an allegation of rape.
In the court of public opinion, a defendant such as Estrada usually loses.
A former prosecutor, Martinez said his indictment "vindicates what I have been saying for almost a full year -- that the personal and political emails of dozens of people, including my own, were hijacked, stolen or never received by the intended recipients."
In one way, Martinez is right. Public perception is that she was wronged by a fellow Republican who turned into her political enemy, then got hold of her emails with the goal of using them to damage her.
But in the legal system, the indictment is merely a series of allegations against Estrada. It is not proof of guilt. It does not vindicate the governor or anybody else.
Still, we all know that Martinez will be talking about the case at the Capitol and at political events. Estrada's new arena will be a courtroom.
For him, vindication or conviction will occur there.
Acquittals are rare in federal court. Estrada will need one to have any hope of recovering from the indictment and all the aspersions it cast on his character.
A smooth, white-collar guy with a Georgetown MBA, Estrada never imagined his life would turn out like this.
He is versed in government but not this branch of it. The campaign trail is a memory for him. Now he is a criminal defendant facing the awesome power of federal investigators and prosecutors in the strange, intimidating surroundings of a courtroom.