Solomon Peña didn’t get much attention as a candidate.
It makes sense; he was a Republican running in a deeply Democratic district. Incumbent Miguel Garcia has long ties to the district, serving since 1997, never having a truly competitive race in the general election.
The most media attention Peña received came when Garcia sued to remove him from the ballot over his felony convictions over a decade ago for conspiracy to commit burglary, larceny and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
In late 2006 and 2007, Peña and others drove a vehicle into big box stores, then robbed them of electronics and jewelry. They did this at four stores: Toys ‘R’ Us, Hastings, KMart and Circuit City. According to court records, others involved in the scheme took plea deals and testified against Peña, who served nine years in prison.
This would have an echo 15 years later for his later alleged crimes that have received national attention.
When his Democratic opponent attempted to remove him from the general election ballot, a House Republican spokesman told the Albuquerque Journal that Peña had turned his life around. Peña himself refused to speak to the newspaper.
The House Republican caucus attempted to distance themselves from Peña after the arrest, issuing a statement saying, “We appreciate law enforcement’s diligence in pursuing this investigation and we are still learning of this development just as the rest of New Mexico is. New Mexico House Republicans condemn violence in any form and are grateful no one was injured. This is yet another example of a convicted felon unlawfully gaining access to firearms, which they are barred from owning or possessing, and using the weapon in a manner that causes public harm.”
Peña’s far-right ideology wasn’t hidden.
Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller referenced this in the press conference when Albuquerque police announced Peña’s arrest.
“At the end of the day, this was about a right wing radical, an election denier who was arrested today,” Keller said. “And someone who did the worst imaginable thing you can do when you have a political disagreement, which is turn that to violence.”
While Peña’s social media is sparse—with campaign and Facebook pages no longer online and only a campaign Twitter account still public as of his arrest—it shows that Peña’s involvement in the strain of far-right politics that has flourished since the 2016 election of Donald Trump and accelerated since Trump’s loss to Joe Biden in 2020.
While his campaign Twitter feed initially included regular Republican talking points like supporting the oil and gas industry and opposing abortion access, he later started expressing more radical opinions, largely denying 2020 election results.
In July, he tweeted in response to someone who said Trump lost in 2020, “He did not lose nada. It was rigged. Latinos para Trump!”
He replied to a tweet from U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury calling her a “demon possessed liar” and said she would not have as many votes as her Republican opponent in House District 14 “unless your coconspirators rig it.”
Days ahead of the election, Peña wrote in reply to a Lujan Grisham tweet, “There is absolute proof that NMs 5 electoral votes should not have gone to Mr. Biden in Jan 2021. We will see the day in which I get to volunteer to escort your handcuffed body to Guantanamo Bay Cuba, where you will remain for natural life.”
The conspiracies over the election results accelerated after he lost to Garcia in November. Peña received 2,005 votes, to Garcia’s 5,588 votes, near-50 point loss.
He consistently referred to the “rigged” election. He called himself the “MAGA king.”
He cited notorious conspiracy theory website The Gateway Pundit and the thoughts of election conspiracy theorist David Clements, a former New Mexico State University professor. He expanded his claims over rigged elections to the Arizona gubernatorial race and New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District race, both won by Democrats.
On the messaging service Telegram on Nov. 13, according to screenshots supplied to NM Political Report, he replied to a story about conspiracy theories about the counting of votes in New Mexico with, “Hang her, until dead” in reference to Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver.
He also claimed, on Twitter, that he was at the Jan. 6 Trump rally, but that he lost his phone. It’s unclear if he was at the rally, the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol or both.
Peña began lashing out at other Republicans as well, saying they didn’t support Trump enough and made misogynistic comments against Republican women who ran for office.
“Us true American Nationalists will prevail, because you will have to kill us to stop us,” he tweeted in December.
This was three days after police said those paid by Peña had already stolen an SUV and shot at Bernalillo County Commissioner Adriann Barboa’s home. The day after his “American Nationalists” tweet, state Rep. Javier Martinez’s home was shot; investigators did not find the casing until weeks later, after the initial reports of shootings. Both politicians are Democrats.
In the coming weeks, those hired by Peña and Peña himself would shoot at the residences of two other Democratic politicians.
Throughout 2022, Peña made a number of political donations.
He donated to the far-right LaRouchePAC, which was founded by Lyndon LaRouche, a notorious conspiracy theorist and fringe figure in politics. LaRouche was accused of antisemitism and racism and his following had been called cult-like.
He also posted a photo of himself manning a table for LaRouchePAC at a Pennsylvania Trump rally in May of 2022.
He supported Wisconsin State Assembly Member Timothy Ramthun in his race for governor. The Associated Press described Ramthun as an “election conspiracy theorist” who believed that Trump won the 2020 election and titled a conspiracy video with a phrase used by QAnon supporters.
He also donated to the unsuccessful campaign to recall California governor Gavin Newsom, New Mexico Republican gubernatorial candidate Jay Block and former Republican state Rep. Alonzo Baldonado.