Insurgent fights to get on Dem primary ballot

On BPR: Meet the democratic socialist looking to unseat North Bklyn’s longtime state senator
Photo by Caroline Ourso

The 27-year-old self-proclaimed Democratic socialist looking to unseat a longtime democratic state senator claims the long-time pol is trying to kick her off the ballot.

Political newcomer Julia Salazar wants to oust state Sen. Martin Malavé Dilan — who has represented parts of Bushwick, Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Bedford-Stuyvesant, East New York, and Brownsville up in Albany since 2003 — but she is embroiled in a court case that started Wednesday after Dilan challenged her petitions with the city’s Board of Elections in an attempt to boot her from the ballot on primary day.

“He doesn’t want voters in our district to have a choice,” said Salazar, whose campaign picked up steam after fellow democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez famously bested an entrenched Queens congressman in June’s federal primary.

Dilan — a one-time ally of disgraced Democratic party boss Vito Lopez — claims Salazar hasn’t lived in the five boroughs long enough to run for office in Kings County.

Salazar, who grew up in Florida and now lives in Bushwick, says his accusations are ridiculous and merely an attempt by another machine politician to prevent constituents from having a voice.

“That’s absurd, of course. We can prove that I’ve lived in New York City for my entire adult life,” she said. “Incumbents like Dilan don’t fight fair. They’re not content to make their case openly and honestly and let the voters decide. Instead, they use every trick in the book to try to destroy their opponents with falsehoods, voter suppression, personal attacks, back-room deals and frivolous lawsuits — anything to distract from the issues and intimidate the people who challenge them.”

But Salazar, who has $118,415 in her war chest, according to state records, and whose campaign says she has collected 4,000 signatures to get on the ballot for the Sept. 13 Democratic primary — 3,000 more than needed — is confident that after the court case, voters will still have the opportunity to cast their ballots for her next month.

“I’m not intimidated by Sen. Dilan’s tactics, and I won’t be distracted, because I know I’m not out here alone,” said Salazar, who has picked up the endorsements of gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon, Rep. Nydia Velazquez, and Councilman Antonio Reynoso (D–Bushwick). “And I know that together we’re stronger than any incumbent, stronger than the machine.”

A spokesman for Dilan, who has $71,265 in his campaign coffers, according to state records, didn’t respond to specific questions about the court battle but said a judge will decide his challenger’s fate on the ballot.

“The matter is before the court,” his spokesman said.

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