Lyla June Johnston, the first person in years to challenge House Speaker Brian Egolf in a Democratic primary, said she plans to fast on the Capitol steps for seven days and nights as a form of prayer for the planet during a time of rising global temperatures.
The 30-year-old Navajo poet-turned-
politician says the fast is meant to draw attention to a forthcoming broad environmental and social proposal her campaign will release piecemeal, with one part of the plan unveiled each day at 12:15 p.m. during her “fast for the future,” starting Jan. 20, a day ahead of the 2020 legislative session.
One major question is whether Johnston will be able to lawfully remain on the Capitol steps overnight, her campaign manager said, adding Capitol staff have told the candidate she does not have permission to sleep on the steps overnight.
“First and foremost … it is a prayer. In fact, if it wasn’t, I wouldn’t last two days,” Johnston said, adding she will have a nurse checking in with her every day and intends to sleep in high-quality winter camping gear.
“And that’s part of our Native culture,” she continued. “Fasting is one way you can pray. And every time your tummy rumbles, you’re reminded of what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and the importance of thinking outside of yourself.”
Johnston, who announced her run in December, is an outspoken critic of the state’s economic reliance on the oil and gas industry, which provides about 45 percent of a $7 billion state budget that pays for services such as public schools, roads, environmental regulation and other state agencies.
She argues New Mexico’s cozy relationship with the industry is not worth the money and criticizes her opponent in District 47 — one of the most powerful Democratic lawmakers in the state — for accepting campaign donations from energy companies and the Public Service Company of New Mexico, the state’s largest utility.
Egolf has responded that he has done much for the environment, including supporting Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s Energy Transition Act, which requires the state to move to zero-carbon electricity production by 2045.
Johnston is allied with a young group of high school-age and adult climate activists called Youth United for Climate Crisis Action, some of whom were issued citations by state police for demonstrating in Lujan Grisham’s office in October after the building closed.