Democratic Socialist • Primary Candidate for New York State Senate
A Hyper-Local Race in Gentrifying Brooklyn
“We can shake New York’s political establishment to its core,” said Julia Salazar, the young New York State Senate candidate running to unseat a long-term incumbent in Brooklyn, at her kickoff event in May. Salazar, 27, is an organizer with Jews for Racial and Economic Justice and is running as a Democrat, but also as a Democratic Socialist. The primary is September, 2018, and the seat she’s aiming to take represents a large swath of North Brooklyn, including the trendy but gentrifying Bushwick, where she organizes for tenants’ rights.
“As a resident of the district who has watched rent prices skyrocket, I felt it was vitally important that a candidate who refused to take money from for-profit developers run for this [state] Senate seat,” she told Lilith. “It never occurred to me that I could be that person until multiple people encouraged me to run. It’s really powerful and humbling to have conversations and hear people say they trust you to represent them.”
The small but growing Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) is a leftwing party that has rapidly gained adherents by not playing spoiler in general elections. Instead, they tend to work by endorsing the most progressive candidates from other parties in primaries, while also running their own, further-to-the-left candidates in local Democratic races that are safely progressive, like the 18th, the district Salazar is trying to snatch from its longtime incumbent. She has been pegged as one of a small group of candidates the DSA actually thinks could win.
Her ambitious platform has a local bent: it includes ending cash bail, shutting down notorious New York City jail Rikers Island, banning Immigrations and Customs Enforcement from courtrooms, legalizing marijuana and working for universal health coverage in the state. She also told Lilith, “I support making sure that abortion is available to all, free of cost and without apology.” But at the very center of her campaign is the issue dearest to her heart and one that has reached a crisis point in New York City as gentrification increases: getting state funding “for truly and deeply affordable housing– affordable to the working-class residents of North Brooklyn, not just the rich.”
Salazar’s identification with the struggling and displaced residents of Brooklyn is personal for her. Her father is a Sephardic Jew from Colombia. She describes herself as raised working-class, by a single mother, and says she supported herself through Columbia University as a nanny. Her race is a bellwether of how the small and very enthusiastic DSA party navigates the tricky waters of local city politics.