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When Solomon Pena lost the 14th House election in November, he insisted the election was rigged and he should be declared the winner. He also believes Donald Trump won the 2020 presidential election, again claiming the election was rigged.
That appears to be why Pena — a 39-year-old failed Republican candidate who shared photos suggesting he was in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021 — allegedly orchestrated the shooting at the home of four Democratic lawmakers, police said .
Gabriel Sanchez, a professor of political science at the University of New Mexico, said that the threat of violence against elected officials has increased over the past few years, and false claims that the 2020 election was stolen were “a big part of the escalation.”
“To me, the attack on the U.S. Capitol is a sign that we’re going to see more violence,” he said. “That’s the easiest point of contact because a lot of people think the 2020 election was stolen from them, and I think that’s fueling their hatred, their anger, and unfortunately, what we’re seeing.”
No one was injured in the incident involving the home of the local lawmaker, but in one case a bullet penetrated the bedroom of a 10-year-old girl while she was sleeping.
Pena was arrested on Monday.
Local Republican and elected officials condemned Pena’s alleged actions, saying they did not represent the beliefs of the Republican Party.
Pena is unopposed in the primary in New Mexico’s House of Representatives 14th District, which leans heavily toward the Democratic Party. He lost by a landslide, trailing Garcia by 48 points.
However, Pena’s behavior during the campaign has drawn attention.
Some of the people Pena knocked on during the campaign told his opponent — longtime Democratic state Rep. Miguel Garcia — that Pena was aggressive, hostile, and insisted that the 2020 election was built from Trump. Stealing it there, “we need to get rid of (those responsible) and let them spend the rest of their lives in Guantanamo, let them rot in those prisons.”
Sanchez taught Pena, a political science major graduating from UNM in 2021, but said the university instructed him not to talk about him.
While threats of violence against elected officials have clearly increased over the past few years, Sanchez said, the implementation of those threats is rare.
He said he thinks that’s why Pena’s case has garnered so much national attention.
“We actually had people make threats and shoot elected officials,” Sanchez said. “Many places didn’t actually see the threat of violence materialize.”
In California, Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Paul Pelosi, was attacked and seriously injured in his home in October, allegedly by a man looking for the then-Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, who said he was tired of the Washington, D.C. lie. Paul, 82, was seriously injured and had to undergo surgery.
In New Mexico, many elected officials or candidates — Democrats and Republicans — have faced threats over the past three years.
In March 2020, ahead of the 2020 presidential election, a man posted on Facebook: “Time to grab your rifle and kill this governor so we can re-enact constitutional New Mexico law. Enough is enough corrupt government. They either serve the people or die.”
Daniel Mock pleaded guilty to one count of interstate dissemination of threatening communications and was sentenced to 14 months in federal prison in August 2020.
In the wake of the 2020 election, New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver has received so many threats she has been away from home for nearly six weeks. Toulouse Oliver said she was one of about 40 people whose photos, home addresses and other personal information were posted on a website called Enemy of the People.
Across the aisle, Mark Ronchetti and his wife received several threatening emails after they ran for U.S. Senate. The messages threatened physical violence, including the use of racial slurs.
Stephen Yochim was arrested in January 2021, after the election was over and Ronchetti lost. He pleaded guilty to stalking and was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison in March 2022.
Last September, during Ronchetti’s gubernatorial campaign against Lujan Grisham, someone sprayed the garage door of his home with particles, breaking windows.
High-profile figures aren’t the only ones facing hostility — the Doña Ana County clerk said she received racist mail in the run-up to the 2020 election, and one of her employees brought absentee ballots back to office at night.
pena as a candidate
State Rep. Garcia has represented highly Democratic districts such as the South Valley and Barreras in the New Mexico legislature for a quarter century. He has run unopposed in general elections in recent years.
This year is different.
After seeing that he had a Republican challenger, Garcia looked up at Pena to see that he had only recently registered to vote. Pena’s voting rights are restored in April 2021 after his probation period expires.
Then, Garcia said, he began receiving anonymous tip-offs from voters asking if he knew about his opponent’s criminal record. He saw Pena “bragging about his participation in the uprising” on social media.
And, Garcia said, people started spreading disturbing stories of Pena’s approach when they knocked on the door. He said some people reported that he felt threatened because he was “uttering a really aggressive, confident, fascist rhetoric of incitement and hostility.”
“In about five of these cases, two of which were women, after being told four or five times to leave – they didn’t want to hear what he had to say anymore and they didn’t want him on their property – he basically backed off took two steps … and waved, you know, ‘Come out. Tell me to my face,'” Garcia said. “He’s literally calling them to a showdown. Take it to a showdown.
Around the same time, Garcia filed a lawsuit seeking to prevent Pena from voting because of past felony larceny and larceny charges. A judge ruled that Pena remained on the ballot.
When Garcia heard about the shooting, he contacted the Albuquerque Police Department and told them everything he had gathered about Pena. An APD spokesman said Garcia’s information is now part of the case.
Two of the four lawmakers whose homes were targeted — Bernalillo County Commissioners Adriann Barboa and Debbie O’Malley — were tasked with Elections are authenticated. O’Malley’s term is over.
It was unclear why two others — State Sen. Linda Lopez and State Rep. Javier Martinez — were targeted.
Both Barboa and O’Malley told the Journal that Pena made an uninvited visit to their home before the shooting, insisting the election results were rigged. The documents he showed them mirrored those they had received from other election deniers, they said.
Pena also visited Lopez’s home, police said. Speakers for House Democrats said they had no indication he had been at Martinez’s home before the shooting.
While his house was not shot, Bernalillo County Commissioner Steven Michael Quesada said Pena did visit him the day after the election. Pena spoke briefly with Quesada’s wife and left papers for the commissioner, who was not home at the time.
Quesada, a Democrat, said he called Pena the next day out of duty to voters and to express displeasure with his visit to his house, a second-term commissioner he said he never had as an elected official. had such an experience.
In an email after the primary election last June, a writer who identified himself as Solomon Pena asked then-Bernarillo County Commissioner Charlene Piscotti to review the forensic audit, manual recounts, and Pena’s own collection of votes. Don’t Prove Primary Election Results Until ‘Voting Record'”
“I warn you. You will not certify the June 7, 2022 NM primary election in Bernalillo County until you perform these three listed acts,” Pyskoty provided the Wall Street Journal on June 14. Day email begins.
Bernalillo County Deputy Clerk Jaime Diaz said the message wasn’t unusual and he’s seen more like it from others during his tenure as election administrator.
Diaz, who has worked on elections for 30 years, said a “small group” of people questioned electronic voting machines since the mid-1990s, but after former President Trump began insisting he actually won the 2020 election, Conspiracy theories intensify election.
As for the only Republican member of the county commission, Bernalillo County Commissioner Walter Benson, he said he had no interaction with Pena.
“Honestly, when I first read it, I didn’t even recognize the name,” Benson said. “He never contacted me.”
Family, friends and records paint complicated picture of Solomon Pena
Shooting suspect filed numerous civil suits while serving time for property crimes…