Appellate judges rule against state senator’s attempt to remove challenger from ballot

On BPR: Meet the democratic socialist looking to unseat North Bklyn’s longtime state senator
Fresh faces: Actress turned gubernatorial hopeful Cynthia Nixon, at mic, endorsed Salazar, right, earlier this month.
Photo by Caroline Ourso

A panel of judges on Wednesday denied an appeal that Bushwick’s sitting Democratic state senator filed in an attempt to kick his Democratic Socialist challenger off the ballot, ruling against the pol’s claims that his opponent has not lived in the district long enough.

The Appellate Division’s decision came roughly two weeks after a Supreme Court Justice threw out state Sen. Martin Malavé Dilan’s case against 27-year-old Julia Salazar, a political novice whose grass-roots campaign received a surge of support earlier this summer after her fellow Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez upset longtime Queens Congressman Joe Crowley in the June federal primary elections.

Salazar’s attorney applauded the court following its decision, claiming Dilan’s allegations against her client — who wants to take his seat representing Brooklyn’s 18th District, which also includes parts of Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Cypress Hills, East New York, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and Brownsville — are unfounded.

“Today’s unanimous decision once again shows that Senator Dilan’s arguments concerning her residency are baseless,” said Renée Paradis.

But Dilan — who told Brooklyn Paper Radio earlier this month that Salazar must “follow the law” if she wants to be a state senator — is not done before the bench, according to a spokesman, who said the legislator is taking his case to the Court of Appeals in Albany.

“There are valid questions about whether she meets state requirements that she be a New York resident for five years to run for office,” said Bob Liff.

And it was not all bad news for the incumbent running for his ninth term in Albany this week — days before his legal setback, Mayor DeBlasio threw his support behind Dilan’s campaign.

Hizzoner said his decision to endorse the state senator and former Councilman — a one-time ally of the disgraced Brooklyn Democratic Party boss, the late Vito Lopez — is “personal,” citing the years he worked with Dilan’s son Erik Dilan, now an Assemblyman who represents many of the same neighborhoods his father does, back when the two were councilmen.

“I have been very close to them personally. They’ve both done really good work for the city. And when they asked for my support, I knew what I was getting,” DeBlasio said on “Inside City Hall.” “I hear good things about the opponent too, but I don’t happen to know her, so I went with someone that, to me, was proven.”

Another powerful Dilan supporter said his decision to back the career lawmaker was more about his record of service to a district he’s called home since he was born — unlike Salazar, who he said just moved to Bushwick four years ago after attending college in Manhattan and living in her native Florida for most of her life, was a registered Republican in the Sunshine State until changing her party affiliation to Democrat in New York last year, and led a pro-life group in college.

“Unlike his challenger, who is a phony progressive and was a Florida Republican until last year, and just parachuted into the district to run, Marty Dilan has been there for the people for decades,” said Brooklyn Democratic Party boss Frank Seddio. “He has helped bring schools, health programs, housing-maintenance funds, progressive criminal-justice reforms, rent-regulation protections — the list goes on and on.”

Still, Salazar has picked up her own fair share of support from other pols, candidates, and local leaders, including councilmen Brad Lander (D–Park Slope), Jumaane Williams (D–Midwood), Antonio Reynoso (D–Bushwick), and Carlos Menchaca (D–Red Hook), along with Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D–Williamsburg), and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon.

And Salazar — whose campaign spokesman said her early beliefs were shaped by growing up in a conservative immigrant family, but is now proudly pro-choice — is not discouraged by Hizzoner’s endorsement, according to her rep, who said it only shows how entrenched Dilan is in machine politics.

“It’s not unusual for the mayor to endorse a long-term incumbent. What is unusual is for an insurgent campaign like Julia’s to have racked up so many endorsements from progressive local elected officials,” said Michael Kinnucan.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
State Sen. Martin Malavé Dilan.

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