Complaints About Culture War And ‘Demonic’ Forces Fueled Alleged New Mexico Shooter’s Political Campaign  

Solomon Pena, New Mexico House candidate
Solomon Pena, New Mexico House candidate (Twitter: @SolomonPena2022)
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Solomon Pena, the failed Republican candidate who is accused of hiring men to shoot at the homes of Democratic Party officials in his home state of New Mexico, believed his race was “rigged” and tried to make that case to some of his alleged victims. However, “Big Lie” conspiracy theories about election fraud aren’t the only extreme beliefs that animated Pena. 

A review of his campaign website and social media postings showed that Pena parroted deranged versions of right-wing culture war concerns. As he expressed fear over the “Black Lives Matter” movement and feminism prior to the election, Pena’s comments were tinged with the QAnon-adjacent idea that liberal ideology as a whole is part of some larger, nefarious plot with roots in the supernatural.

“Critical Race Theory, the entire Black Lives Matter movement, aborting the unborn, food stamps, affirmative action, etc. are all demonic,” Pena wrote in an essay posted on his main campaign site. 

That was one of four main items on Pena’s campaign site including another essay arguing that various environmentally-friendly energy technologies were “hoaxes,” a link promoting an article posted by a political action committee that was led by the late conspiracy theorist Lyndon LaRouche, and a report that purportedly outlined issues with New Mexico’s elections last year. There was no credible evidence of widespread fraud in those races.

Pena was arrested in Albuquerque on Monday. According to police, the arrest was the end of a dangerous spree that began after Pena lost his bid to represent the 14th District in the New Mexico House of Representatives last November. Pena, who garnered a paltry 26.4 percent of the vote, reportedly followed his defeat by visiting the homes of three local Democrats who were involved in certifying the race. 

During those visits, Pena presented the officials with supposed evidence backing his belief that the election was illegitimate. That packet of information apparently included “graphs,” Debbie O’Malley, a former county commissioner, told TPM Tuesday as she recounted his visit to her house. O’Malley’s home was later shot at, according to police. The three officials visited by Pena were among four Democrats whose homes were allegedly shot at in separate incidents last month and on Jan. 3. 

According to a warrant for Pena’s arrest, the shootings took place at the homes of the officials, who included the incoming state House speaker and a state senator. In one of the incidents, the warrant said a bullet passed through the room of a lawmaker’s “ten year old daughter” so closely that “sheetrock dust” was sprayed onto her face. According to the warrant, police found text messages showing Pena sent one of the shooters the exact addresses of the officials who were targeted. Police said they also spoke with a “confidential witness” who was present for two of the shootings. The witness claimed Pena participated in one of the incidents and that he paid one of the men involved. Pena did not respond to a request for comment and attorneys representing him could not be reached. The arrest was not Pena’s first brush with the law. In 2007, he was charged in relation with a burglary. According to Albuquerque Police Department Communications Director Gilbert Gallegos, Pena “was convicted “and served about 7 years in prison.” 

On his Twitter page, Pena challenged the election even before it took place. He paired these messages, too, with worries about demons. Pena’s election conspiracy theories and fears about the spiritual realm were also combined with more standard far-right concerns about cultural issues including civil rights and abortion. 

In mid October, Pena sent a pair of tweets ten minutes apart where he attacked Democrats and cast the progressive agenda as “demonic.” The first tweet praised Gabe Vasquez, who went on to win his race in New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District, which includes part of Albuquerque. 

“HD 14 is a mass of God fearing, flag saluting Latino Patriots who reject your Demonic CRT, neoMalthusian, multiple gender nonsense,” Pena wrote. 

Pena followed that up by attacking Rep. Melanie Stansbury (D-NM), whose district also includes part of Albuquerque, and who had posted a tweet describing herself as “pro-choice.”

“You are a demon possessed liar,” Pena wrote. “I’ve been door knocking almost every day since March. The Latino Peoples of HD 14 are almost uniformly pro life.”

With his mix of anger at false claims of election fraud and cultural issues, Pena was clearly animated by arguments that have been a driving force in Republican politics. However, his writings show he saw his beliefs through the lens of a larger, spiritual battle, too. In the essay on his campaign site where he decried a laundry list of progressive causes as “demonic,” Pena devoted a full section to feminism.

“Feminism is demonicism. All of our accumulated thoughts and knowledge are steadily being erased by it,” Pena wrote, adding, “Of the movements of our time, it is the most potentially corrosive and radical.  Women and men are not equal. They have immutable characteristics that separate them from each other.” 

In that essay, Pena called for drastic measures to be taken to confront the “great injustice” of former President Trump’s defeat in the 2020 election. Pena also once posted a tweet indicating he attended the January 6, 2021 protests against Trump’s loss that turned violent in Washington D.C.

“They overthrew DJT. The offenders are not criminal defendants, they are enemy combatants that must be placed in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for the remainder of their natural lives,” Pena wrote. 

Along with his apparent devotion to culture wars and election conspiracy theory rage, Pena also seemed to be animated by some even less mainstream ideas. On his website and Twitter page, Pena promoted the ideas of LaRouche, a noted anti-Semite and conspiracist whose ideology ran all over the map. Specifically, on Twitter, Pena highlighted pages from a LaRouche book that criticized the global influence of various think tanks and the World Wildlife Fund. Pena’s campaign site also linked to an article from LaRouche’s political action committee that railed against “the scourge of globalist empire” and cast former President Trump as having challenged the “anti-human world view” of elite economists. That article also advocated for “developing a permanent human presence on the Moon” as a solution to multiple societal issues. 

Pena wasn’t solely focused on the world of the demonic. Like the LaRouche acolytes, he also had an eye towards outer space and was eager to see moon colonies. In one November 2022 tweet where he attacked Stansbury for claiming to be “PRO-SCIENCE.” In that message, he framed abortion as an obstacle that would prevent the spread of civilization to other planets. 

“I disagree. We need a global population of ten billion people in order to have the proper division of labor so we can colonize the moon and Mars, but you are highly focused on helping abort 890,000 babies a year, in the U.S,” Pena wrote adding, “You are anti science.”

TPM’s Kaila Philo contributed reporting.

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