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Egolf opponent drops out of race

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – The woman who was challenging House Speaker Brian Egolf for the District 47 seat is ending her campaign amid an investigation into allegations of embezzlement and fraud brought by her former campaign manager.

Lyla June Johnston

Lyla June Johnston, 30, announced this week that she was dropping out of the race and redirecting her energy to fighting climate change.

“We are pivoting our campaign, our time, and our resources to support Youth United for Climate Crisis Action’s (YUCCA) climate emergency campaign and their work to develop a policy platform that addresses the very real threat to our future,” Johnston said in a post on her Facebook page. “Although this is bittersweet, we are excited to use the momentum of this campaign to supercharge the youth-led climate movement.”

Johnston said she hopes to run for office again in the future.

Meanwhile, Johnston’s former campaign manager, Bronwenn Murray, last month twice called Santa Fe police to report missing items she believed Johnston and another campaign worker had taken.

According to police reports, Murray told police she quit the campaign after learning of an incident Johnston allegedly took part in while a freshman in college. She later found out that her laptop computer, headphones, a desk, two chairs and two lamps, and a post office box key were missing from the campaign office.

A few days later, Murray called police again to report that her personal checking account had been overdrawn, leaving a negative balance of over $3,000. She indicated at that time that she had been “having problems” with Johnston and the other campaign worker.

Murray’s attorney, Rachel Higgins, said the property has been returned.

As for the money, Higgins said she couldn’t comment on pending matters relating to the separation of employment and the amount of compensation due to her client.

In a statement provided to the Journal on Wednesday, Johnston said her conflict with Murray had nothing to do with her decision to drop out of the race.

“The incidents in these reports are untrue and stem from misunderstandings and the normal complications organizations face when separating with a high level employee,” she said. “I wish her nothing but the best and I’m happy that we have been able to work together in clearing this up.  This misunderstanding had nothing to do with my decision to change direction and focus instead on the broader climate movement.  With the uphill battle we faced in this campaign, it became clear that our time, energy and resources would have a greater impact if directed towards the youth-led climate movement.”

A Santa Fe police spokesman said Tuesday that no charges have been filed and that the case has been forwarded to SFPD’s criminal investigations unit.

Johnston, has described herself as being of half European and half Navajo descent, campaigned against the influence of oil and gas industry interests, and advocated for a “Seven Generations New Deal,” a policy proposal to address the climate crisis.

Egolf has not been challenged in a Democratic primary since winning election in 2008. He has withstood two challenges from Republican candidates in a district that has long been a Democratic stronghold.

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