Democratic Socialist Overcomes Controversy, Defeats Dem Incumbent in NY State Senate Primary

Democratic Socialist candidate Julia Salazar / Getty Images
September 14, 2018

Democratic socialist Julia Salazar won the Democratic primary for a state senate seat in Brooklyn on Thursday. She is almost guaranteed to win the general election as no Republican is running in the district.

The 27-year-old candidate defeated eight-term incumbent Sen. Martin Dilan in New York’s 18th District, the Associated Press reports. Salazar’s victory came as part of an overall rough night for Democratic state senate incumbents.

Several members of a splinter group of Democratic senators that supported Republican control in the state senate were defeated on Thursday.

Although Dilan was not a member of that group, he represents a district that has undergone a significant shift in recent years, with many residents having been pushed out by rising rents and new, wealthier residents.

Salazar challenged Dilan for not doing enough to stop gentrification and help the poor.

"This is a victory for workers," Salazar said at a victory party. "This is a victory for all of you, who every day have knocked on doors and have had meaningful conversations with our neighbors about these issues."

Salazar faced criticism in recent weeks as reporters investigated her past and spurred questions about her biographical claims.

Despite claiming to have been a Columbian immigrant who struggled financially growing up, Salazar was actually born in Miami, her brother described them growing up "middle class" in a "beautiful neighborhood," and her father left "substantial assets" in a trust. Her religious affiliations were also scrutinized after she appeared to shift from being a pro-life Christian Republican to a far-left Jewish Democrat in college.

Salazar also did not graduate from Columbia University, as her campaign implied, leading one group to pull back their endorsement of her.

In 2011, Salazar was accused of attempted bank fraud by the ex-wife of former New York Mets player Keith Hernandez. She was arrested, but not prosecuted, and Salazar later sued Kai Hernandez on grounds she tried to frame her. Salazar said Hernandez tried to set her up after accusing her of having an affair with Keith Hernandez. The lawsuit was settled for $20,000.

Just prior to the election, The Daily Caller told Salazar’s campaign it was going to publish a story naming her as a woman who anonymously accused a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of sexual assault.

Salazar tweeted about the incident, saying she did not want to be "outed" against her will, and said the aide, David Keyes, had bullied her into performing a sex act. Although Keyes dismissed it as a false accusation, he took a leave of absence after more women came forward with accusations.

Following the announcement of her victory Thursday night, Salazar also took to Twitter to voice her plans to "build a better New York."

"Tonight’s victory is not about me. Tonight’s victory is about New Yorkers coming together and choosing to fight against rising rents and homelessness in our communities. Together, we will build a better New York," she tweeted.

Published under: 2018 Election , New York