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Senator Forced to Flee Home After Homophobic Death Threats Tells Story

Jacob Candelaria

A lawmaker in New Mexico says he has been forced to flee his home after receiving a number of homophobic and threatening phone calls from a phone number linked to a man suspected of having an outstanding warrant for aggravated assault against a family member, as well as multiple past firearms violations. State Senator Jacob Candelaria, who represents New Mexico’s District 26, says the calls came in response to his criticism of an event organized by Republicans in the state’s capital, and that police and even the governor have refused to help or seriously investigate the case.

“No one is taking this seriously,” he tells Out in an emotional phone interview from an undisclosed location in the state where he and his husband are in hiding. The couple had been living in Alberquerque.

The problems started when the three-term Democratic state senator running for reelection called out Republicans for organizing what he called a “super spreader” political event Saturday evening where attendees were not wearing masks or practicing social distancing.

“My husband is a doctor treating pandemic patients in the hospital,” Candelaria explains. “He’s had to pronounce dozens of his patients dead so we know how serious this is. This is a direct violation of a public order and, unfortunately, enforcement has been absent.”

A short time later, Candelaria and his husband started receiving a series of threatening and homophobic phone calls at their home. One called him a “cock-sucking Democrat” and another more ominous caller said he planned to remove Candelaria from office “one way or another.”

“That call had nothing to do with voting me out of office,” Candelaria says. “It had everything to do with shooting me out of office.” He's subsequently posted some clips as well as a recounting of the events to Twitter.

When the senator called police, they expressed a lack of concern according to Candelaria. Even though the 911 operator assured him an officer would be at his home within the hour, nobody showed up until 14 hours later after repeated attempts by the state senator to get a visit.

“I had to beg for them to show up,” he alleges. He went on to say that the officer who did finally show up expressed little interest in investigating the phone numbers on caller ID, telling Candelaria the recorded messages were “open to interpretation.”

When Candelaria contacted a private investigator immediately after the officer left, however, a simple online search showed the number had a 86 percent chance of being connected to a man with an outstanding warrant for aggravated battery against a family member, as well as several past firearms charges. When police finally contacted the suspected caller, who said he meant no harm, they claimed they believed him because he “pinky promised.”

A spokesperson for the police told Associated Press that they are handling the complaint and reviewing their initial response. 

To date, Candelaria has received little help from his fellow lawmakers. When he reached out to Governor Michelle Grisham for extra security, her office said they didn’t have the budget for the expense and the case was closed as far as they were concerned. According to him, a fellow legislator subsequently also warned Candelaria it was in his “best interest” to drop his criticism of the governor.

“The major intent of the responses I’ve received is to cover the butt of the governor and the failures early in the investigation,” he says.

While Candelaria and his husband remain in hiding, he’s not about to drop his criticism of the police and the governor for their failure to properly investigate the calls and provide protection for a threatened lawmaker.

“We will stop criticizing the response of the governor when the governor starts doing her job,” he says. “The next time I’ll be sure I’m shot before I bug your office for protection.”

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