Chemical substance found in 'suspicious envelope' sent to Conservation Voters New Mexico

Oct. 28—The FBI is investigating a "suspicious envelope" with antisemitic symbols and threats and containing an undisclosed chemical substance inside delivered Wednesday to the Santa Fe offices of Conservation Voters New Mexico.

Initial testing of the substance indicated it "contained ingredients of a potent toxin used in terrorist attacks," the environmental organization said Friday in a news release.

"Thankfully, [the substance] was found to be inert in the form present in the envelope. No CVNM staff were harmed in the incident," the news release states.

FBI spokesman Frank Fisher said the agency is releasing few details about the envelope amid an ongoing investigation.

"We can definitely say ... an undisclosed substance was in the envelope," he said. "It was tested, determined not to be harmful. But still, that doesn't alleviate the threat, so we are investigating this, and we're asking anybody with information to call us at 1-800-CALL-FBI."

Fisher said the agency has identified the substance, "but we're not putting it out there right now in order not to jeopardize the investigation."

The letter also contained antisemitic symbols and campaign material attacking state Rep. Nathan Small, a Las Cruces Democrat whose father is Jewish, as well as threatening language directed at Small, the Democratic Party of New Mexico and the environmental organization, according to the news release.

"This was an appalling and hateful attack," U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich tweeted Friday. "There should be no room in policy debates for threatening the health and safety of others. Not in New Mexico. Not in our democracy."

Demis Foster, executive director of Conservation Voters New Mexico, agreed.

"Since 2016, the political climate just nationwide has led people to believe that violence in political campaigns is a means to an end," she said. "The attack on the [U.S. Capitol], that is so scary. We've got to end this violence. The whole health of our democracy depends on it, and these extremists who are using terror because they don't like someone who's running for office, this is just insanity. We can't allow it to continue. We've got to stop allowing people to think it's OK to use violence."

News of the suspicious letter came the same day an intruder attacked the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with a hammer in the couple's San Francisco home.

Foster said the white, legal-size envelope sent to her organization had the words "Nazi party" written in "big red Sharpie" above the label with the organization's address.

"One of my employees just opened all the mail," she said. "That's when it was discovered that there was also a substance inside the envelope."

The employee, who was alone in the office, was "closely monitored" by emergency medical technicians and then sent to the hospital for evaluation.

"They were ultimately cleared and were able to go home, and they are fine," Foster said. "The person is well and not harmed."

The envelope also had one of the organization's mailers torn up inside, she said, adding the mailer was in support of Small.

Small, who is running for reelection, called the "threats, intimidation and violence" involving elections "unacceptable."

"I call on [House Minority Leader James Townsend, R-Artesia] and the executive director for the Republican Party of New Mexico, who is also my opponent, Kimberly Skaggs, to immediately denounce this latest act of domestic terrorism, and I think for all of us to join in calling for a peaceful and civil election and that we reject violence," he said. "I hope that they join me in that call."

Neither Townsend nor Skaggs returned a message seeking comment.

"The House Republican caucus is unable to provide comment until we have further details about it," including reviewing a police report on the incident, House Republican spokesman Matthew Garcia-Sierra said.

Foster said Conservation Voters New Mexico will not be intimidated. It will continue its advocacy, she said.

"I don't want people to be scared," she said. "My team's not going to let it get us down. We're going to keep doing the work leading up to the election, making sure people know where to vote, that they should go vote. I just wish all of this violence would end."

Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter @danieljchacon.