NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – A convicted felon is running to become a state lawmaker. The decision has sparked a lawsuit, however.

Solomon Pena (R) was convicted of going on a crime spree in 2007. He was 24 when he was arrested and reportedly a leader of a burglary ring. The group would use stolen cars to smash into more than 50 stores in Albuquerque. The crimes totaled up to half a million dollars worth of merchandise.

Pena was convicted of 15 felony charges in 2008. He served more than five years in prison and completed his probation in 2021. Pena is now running for House District 14, which covers the South Valley.

His Democratic opponent, Miguel Garcia, wants Pena kicked off the ballot. He filed a lawsuit, saying he can’t legally hold office if he’s a convicted felon.

Attorney Jacob Candelaria, a retired state senator, is representing Garcia. He said, “New Mexico law makes it very clear a person that has been who has been convicted of a felony, like Mr. Pena cannot hold any public office at any level of government unless they have number one had their voting rights restored, and number two, received a pardon from the governor.”

Pena released a statement. It can be read below.

I am a Hispanic male that has built a life as a reformed-felon, and I am now a graduate of UNM. Political attacks like this from the Democrat Party highlights why I became a Republican and am running to represent Downtown Albuquerque, Barelas, and South Valley. In 2019 my attackers voted that private businesses cannot ask on a job application if someone is a felon – which makes these political attacks, from Democrats about my life, hypocritical to what they claim to stand for.

Solomon Pena

His campaign also said Pena, who is a salesman for a roofing company, has turned his life around. It stated he has built a life as a reformed-felon and graduate of University of New Mexico. Candelaria said, however, Pena still needs a pardon, and that it typically takes decades of good behavior before you can get a pardon.

A hearing has not been set yet.