January 21, 2020

Egolf challenger Johnston begins 7 day fast on Capitol steps

Kendra Chamberlain

The woman who is challenging the state’s Speaker of the House for his seat in this year’s elections began the first of seven days of fasting and public engagement on the steps of the Roundhouse in Santa Fe Monday.

Lyla June Johnston, who will face Santa Fe Democrat Brian Egolf in the Democratic primary, will be unveiling the pillars of her seven-point “Seven Generations New Deal” platform each day of the “Fast for the Future” event. The campaign is focused heavily on addressing the climate crisis and protecting the planet for future generations.

“It’s a seven day fast because we want policy to support the next seven generations. It’s a very long-view policy outlook,” Johnston told NM Political Report, something she believes is missing from our current political leadership. “Right now, we’re literally using oil money to fund our children’s education, with the same industry that is going to destroy those children’s future. Why can’t we think ten years ahead?”

The 30-year old has built an impressive resume on climate action. She has spoken at 24 universities across the country, delivered over a dozen keynote speeches at events such as Bioneers and the Parliament of World Religions, participated in water protector demonstrations at Standing Rock and at Bayou Bridge, a sister protest in Louisiana against the same pipeline. Johnston is also a PhD student and has written two research papers that are in the process of being published.

And she doesn’t shy away from criticizing her opponent.

“There are rumors that people are putting me up to this — that’s not true,” Johnston told NM Political Report. “Brian Egolf put me up to this. If he hadn’t failed my generation, I wouldn’t have to do this. I would be continuing my PhD research.”

Johnston is vocal about what she views as a failure of leadership at the state legislature and the influence corporations and oil and gas companies have over the state’s politics. She pointed to the produced water bill that Egolf cosponsored during last year’s session that directs the state to explore options for recycling fracking wastewater.

RELATED: More questions than answers on how to reuse produced water

“Fracking wastewater is incredibly expensive to process for fracking companies, and this bill [gave] them the ability to turn that cost burden into an asset,” Johnston said. She added that campaign finance reports  indicate Egolf accepted campaign donations from oil companies Conocophillips, Chevron and Marathon Oil as well as PNM, the state’s largest utility, last year. Johnston’s campaign has pledged to not take any money from corporations.

“My generation is saying we don’t have time for this. We don’t have time for the Speaker of the House, one of the more powerful men in the state, to be taking money from oil and gas and writing policy for them in our legislature, when we are supposed to represent the people and the planet,” Johnston said. “We say that is unacceptable.”

During the next seven days, Johnston and a host of others will give speeches and discuss policy ideas with the public. The speeches will begin at 12:15 pm each day. She’s hoping District 47 residents will stop by to share their ideas with her during the week. 

“What we have found is that when the people lead, we generally make better decisions than when corporations lead,” Johnston said. “We want the seven point plan to be reconstructed from the bottom up by the people. What we’re introducing is really just a first draft, it’s meant to kick off a conversation.”

The “Fast for the Future” event is part of a process that Johnston referred to as democratizing our democracy, bringing people back to the political process. She said that corporate influence in governance is “set up for failure.”

“We can’t address climate change when people like Speaker Egolf are bought and sold to oil companies. It contradicts our aspirations to be a people-led society,” she said. “We will not be able to address climate change unless we remove decision making power out of the hands of corporations. Democracy is a prerequisite of climate action.”