“Even after New Mexico shootings, little GOP reckoning over election denialism”


Republican officials in New Mexico knew that Solomon Peña, the man police accused last week of orchestrating shootings into the homes of four Albuquerque Democrats, had served nearly seven years in prison forhis role in smash-and-grab thefts before he lost his bid asthe GOP nominee for a state House seat.

They also knew that Peña was a fervent proponent of the view that the 2020 presidential election was rigged. Authorities said Peña was persuaded that his own election in November had been stolen — despite being defeated by nearly 50 points — and targeted the homes of officials who refused to entertain demands that his loss be reversed.

After Peña’s arrest, Republican leaders condemned the attacks, which included a spray of bullets into a 10-year-old’s bedroom, and acknowledged that the former candidate’s criminal history should have been a red flag. There was far less apparent interest in a reckoning over Peña’s beliefs in widespread voter fraud, a false theory pushed relentlessly by former president Donald Trump and his supporters.

The attacks may have been heinous, top Republicans insisted, but the party’s embrace of election denialism was not the core problem.

“It’s important that we say we can’t stand for crap like this,” said Mark Ronchetti, a Republican who lost the 2022 governor’s race to Democratic incumbent Michelle Lujan Grisham. “But blaming Trump — that’s not fair to do.”

The response reflected Republicans’ continued reluctance to challenge Trump’s false claims, even when they are associated with violence — and even as evidence mounts that they have become an electoral liability. Republicans who echoed the former president’s unfounded assertions lost key races in battlegrounds nationwide last November.

They also lost in Democratic-leaning states, such as New Mexico. Still, with Trump again running for president, and with his track record of using election denialism as a litmus test for earning his endorsement in GOP primaries, many Republican candidates and officeholders have been careful not to cross him.

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