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How the Republican Social gathering Gave Us a New Mexico Pol Accused of Hiring Assassins

Solomon Peña is taken into custody in Albuquerque, NM, on Jan. 16, 2023.

Picture: Roberto E. Rosales/The Albuquerque Journal by way of AP

The mounting forensics proof of a direct connection between right-wing political violence and the Republican Social gathering has a brand new affected person zero whose case may be studied and dissected. His identify is Solomon Peña.

Peña’s story is a case examine within the shut and direct hyperlinks between Republicans and right-wing violence, whilst get together leaders attempt to deny them.

For individuals who have not been following him, Peña ran as a Republican for a seat within the New Mexico Legislature in November however was handily defeated by his Democratic opponent. Peña acquired solely about 26 p.c of the vote in his district from him, but he refused to concede, and as a substitute, like different Republican losers across the nation, he mimicked Donald Trump by complaining that he was the sufferer of election fraud.

“Trump simply introduced for 2024,” Peña tweeted on November 15, 2022. “I stand with him. I by no means granted my HD 14 race. Now researching my choices.”

Peña’s “choices” have been revealed final week, when he was arrested in reference to a sequence of shootings on the properties of 4 Democratic state officers in Albuquerque, together with two concerned in certifying the leads to his race.

Peña, 39, is accused of main a gaggle that included 4 others who shot on the properties of the Democratic officers; in a single case, bullets fired into the home of a Democratic state senator got here near hitting the official’s 10-year-old daughter. Peña allegedly paid the 4 accomplices and offered them with weapons; he is additionally accused of personally collaborating in at the least one of many drive-by shootings.

The Peña case is a part of a surging wave of right-wing political violence that now arguably represents the most important nationwide safety risk dealing with the USA. Tutorial researchers are lastly catching up with the pattern, and recording what has develop into apparent: The violence is overwhelmingly dedicated by extremists on the fitting slightly than the left.

In 2022, an in depth historic examine of acts of extremist violence, dedicated between 1948 and 2018, discovered that the probability that an act of violence was dedicated by a right-wing extremist was nearly equal to the prospect that it was dedicated by an Islamist extremist , whereas the probability that such an act was dedicated by a left-wing extremist was far decrease. The examine, carried out by a analysis workforce co-led by College of Maryland criminology professor Gary LaFree, additionally analyzed world knowledge associated to acts of terrorism between 1970 and 2017, displaying that assaults by left-wing extremists all through the world have been 45 p.c much less prone to lead to fatalities than assaults by right-wing extremists.

Proper-wing violence appears to have elevated for the reason that January 6, 2021, riot on the US Capitol. In actual fact, Peña’s arrest got here simply weeks after the 2 main members of a 2020 plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer have been lastly sentenced, and follows the October assault on Paul Pelosi, the husband of then-Home Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in addition to the August armed assault on the FBI’s Cincinnati workplace by a pro-Trump extremist angered by the FBI’s search of Mar -a-Lago in reference to Trump’s categorized paperwork case.

What makes Peña’s case vital — and clarifying — is that the defeated candidate himself could have engaged straight within the violence. In different latest instances, Republicans have sought to dismiss acts of violence by claiming that there was no proof the criminals concerned have been motivated by their pro-Trump, Republican ideology. Republicans and conservatives have incessantly pushed conspiracy theories to falsely assert that violence was really dedicated by left-wing extremists, or, alternatively, was introduced on by the victims themselves. Within the aftermath of the assault on Paul Pelosi, for instance, distinguished conservatives embraced all kinds of conspiracy theories, together with claims that the murderer was Pelosi’s homosexual lover.

However it isn’t actually attainable to distance the Republican Social gathering from Peña—or from his acts of violence. In any case, the Republicans’ personal candidate for a seat in New Mexico’s Home of Representatives is now sitting in jail, and the proof in opposition to him appears ironclad.

The Peña case underscores how the lies, propaganda, and conspiracy theories that now dominate the rhetoric of the Republican Social gathering result in violence, and that makes Peña’s story much more vital than that of George Santos, the first-term Home consultant and serial fabulist who has garnered much more nationwide consideration.

Solomon Peña, like so many others within the pro-Trump world, by no means succeeded in life. Demoted twice whereas serving within the Navy, he later was a part of a gaggle that drove automobiles into 4 totally different shops and robbed them, leading to a string of smash-and-grab burglaries in Albuquerque that landed him in jail for nearly seven years. He was launched from jail in 2016 and remained on probation till 2021, only a 12 months earlier than he ran for the state legislature.

Peña embraced Trump’s MAGA cult and posted photos of himself on Twitter displaying that he was in Washington on January 6, 2021, to help Trump’s false claims that he had really received the 2020 election.

In contrast to Santos, Peña’s troubled previous was well-known throughout the 2022 marketing campaign; his Democratic opponent sued him to have him faraway from the poll due to his felony convictions. In September 2022, a ruling courtroom allowed Pena to remain on the poll, however the challenge was totally lined within the New Mexico press.

Republicans, in the meantime, continued to again him, arguing that Peña deserved a second likelihood. “Please help Solomon Pena,” Michelle Garcia Holmes, a Republican congressional candidate in New Mexico, tweeted in October, after the courtroom ruling permitting Peña to remain on the poll. “He’s the fitting selection!”

On November 9, the day after he was soundly defeated within the election, Peña tweeted: “I dissent. I’m the MAGA king.”

Police say that, after his election loss, Peña went to the properties of the 4 Democratic officers and confronted them along with his claims of election fraud. Quickly after that, he escalated to allegedly enlisting a gaggle of criminals to shoot at their properties.

Throughout this post-election interval, whereas he was publicly claiming election fraud, Peña was nonetheless transferring up in Republican circles in New Mexico. Two days earlier than his arrest, he was elected to publish as a county ward chair and a Republican Social gathering State Central Committee member.

Following his arrest, the Republican caucus within the New Mexico Home of Representatives issued a weird assertion that didn’t point out Peña’s statehouse candidacy, as a substitute criticizing the federal government for permitting him to have weapons. In an announcement that appeared to show the whole lot in regards to the Peña case on its head, state Republican Home chief Ryan Lane stated, “That is one more instance of a convicted felon getting access to firearms, which they’re barred from proudly owning or possessing, and utilizing. the weapon in a way that causes public hurt.”

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