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House District 47 candidate takes on Egolf, climate change

Lyla June Johnston, a candidate for House District 47, sits outside the Roundhouse on Monday, the first day of a seven-day prayer fast she’s embarking on to bring attention to climate change. Johnston, a Democrat, is running against House Speaker Brian Egolf. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

A candidate for the statehouse in District 47 – a seat currently held by House Speaker Brian Egolf – began a seven-day prayer fast on the steps of the state capitol Monday, the eve of the Legislature’s 30-day session.

Lyla June Johnston, a 30-year-old indigenous woman who grew up on Taos Pueblo, hopes to use her “Fast for the Future” to gather input from people to help shape the tenets of what she’s calling the Seven Generations New Deal, a policy proposal intended to address the climate crisis.

“Policy should not be built from the top down, it should be built from the grass roots up,” she said during a speech outside the Roundhouse Monday afternoon.

Johnston has already identified seven subjects she plans to talk about each day of the prayer fast, starting with democracy. She said it was appropriate that democracy be the first of the topics, since she was kicking off the prayer fast on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

“If the people don’t have power, we don’t stand a chance of bringing change,” she said, later adding that King fought his enemies with love and grace.

The other topics she will discuss during her weeklong prayer fast are ecological restoration, the green economy, indigenous science, equity, climate education and systems chance. She plans to address each topic around noon each day through the end of her fast on Sunday.

In an interview after her speech on Monday, Johnston said she’ll consume only buffalo stew broth, water and juices until then. A registered nurse and doctor will be monitoring her health.

Johnston said facilities management at the Roundhouse will not permit her to spend time on the capitol steps around the clock, as she had hoped. Instead, she’ll begin each day with a dawn prayer at 7 a.m. and stay until 5 p.m. She’ll stay each night at a local church.

During her speech before a few dozen people, Johnston criticized the growing influence corporations have had in American politics since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010.

She said democracy has been taken over by corporations and created an “oligarchy” controlled by powerful and wealthy oil and gas interests. She noted that Speaker Egolf has accepted campaign contributions from those same groups.

Johnston has vowed not to take a penny from corporations.

“I’m doing so because I don’t want to be beholden to anyone other than the people and the planet,” she said.

Johnston is still collecting enough signatures to get her on the ballot for the June 2 primary election.

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