Sept. 14, 2018 By Nathaly Pesantez
Julia Salazar, the 27-year-old activist and democratic socialist running to represent New York’s 18th State Senate District, has unseated eight-term state Sen. Martin Dilan in a closely-watched primary on Thursday.
Salazar defeated the 68-year-old incumbent, who has represented parts of Brooklyn including Greenpoint, Williamsburg, and a large swath of Bushwick for 15 years, by double digits in yesterday’s Democratic primary.
Salazar received more than 58 percent of the vote, while Dilan trailed at 41 percent, with 99 percent of scanners reporting as of press time. She received roughly 6,000 more votes than Dilan.
In a message posted to social media accounts just after 10 p.m. yesterday, Salazar wrote that her victory was about thousands of New Yorkers choosing to fight against rising rents and homelessness in the district—two items her campaign focused heavily on.
“Tonight’s victory is about the strength of our shared vision of democratic socialism,” she wrote. “Tonight’s victory is about the hope we have of creating a New York for the many.”
Salazar, a political newcomer that joins several progressive candidates running for office, led a campaign that centered on an affordable housing crisis in North Brooklyn and subsequent gentrification, which she said was at the hands of the establishment incumbent.
Dilan, meanwhile, relied on his years representing the district in his re-election campaign, and said his experience is needed to fight back against Republican policies.
The primary race here has been under a strong spotlight since June, after Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, another DSA member, defeated Queens Democratic Party boss Rep. Joe Crowley in a stunning primary victory. Many began to dub Salazar as the next Ocasio-Cortez.
Salazar’s campaign, however, faced an onslaught of controversies in recent weeks that grabbed the city and country’s attention, including questions about her past as a Republican, her accounts regarding her place of birth and upbringing, her schooling, and even a left-field legal case involving Mets legend Keith Hernandez.
Dilan also came under scrutiny during his campaign, including revelations of IDC-related funds into a prior re-election campaign, undisclosed PAC donations, and, as in past re-election bids, his number of real estate donations that raised questions about his commitment to housing and tenant issues among his constituents.
Salazar is all but guaranteed to become the district’s representative, as there is no Republican candidate vying for the seat in the upcoming general election.
Salazar is one of several candidates who unseated Democrat incumbents in the Thursday primary, many of whom were members of the Independent Democratic Conference, a group that allied with State Senate Republicans.
Jessica Ramos, for instance, beat out former IDC-member and eight-year incumbent State Sen. Jose Peralta in Jackson Heights, while John Liu, another candidate for State Senate, ousted Tony Avella, another former IDC-member, in northeast Queens. In the Bronx, Alessandra Biaggi defeated state Sen. Jeff Klein—the leader of the IDC.
In the governor’s race, Gov. Andrew Cuomo fended off progressive challenger Cynthia Nixon with a whopping 65 percent of the vote. Lt. Governor, Kathy Hochul, Cuomo’s running mate, also won the primary against City Council Member Jumaane Williams.
Letitia James, Public Advocate, made history in yesterday’s primary, becoming the first black woman to win a major party statewide nomination. She received 40 percent of the vote, with Zephyr Teachout, the runner-up, getting just over 30 percent of the votes.
All Democratic primary winners, save for Salazar, will go up against Republican candidates during the general election on Nov. 6.