Climate activist, musician, spoken word artist and community organizer Lyla June Johnston, 30, delivered an impassioned speech Thursday at the Capitol about what she said is a dire need to shift the state away from its economic reliance on the oil and gas industry.
Nearly 50 supporters gathered in the Roundhouse Rotunda for the formal announcement of her challenge to state House Speaker Brian Egolf in the 2020 Democratic primary election.
Johnston, who earned her bachelor’s degree from Stanford University and her master’s degree in education from the University of New Mexico and is currently pursuing a doctorate, told The New Mexican on Tuesday about her candidacy for state House District 47.
On Thursday, she criticized Egolf on his own turf for legally representing the largest medical marijuana company in the state and for not doing enough to fight oil and gas interests, which account for roughly 45 percent of the state’s income.
Johnston is the first challenger for Egolf’s seat in years.
“He’s been here for nine years, and he’s done a lot of great things,” Johnston said of Egolf.
“But we live in a system that is very hard to maintain your integrity in,” she told supporters. “And I can understand that the vast temptations that come the way of our politicians are hard to resist.
“And so I honor the fact that he is not a problem, actually. He’s rather a symptom of a deeper problem, which is that this government is very prone to corporate interest. And so I have a lot of respect for him, but we need someone who can stand up to those temptations.”