State Senator Goes Head-to-Head with Lawyer in Primaries

In separate articles for El Diario La Prensa, reporter Carolina Ledezma profiles two candidates, both of Puerto Rican descent, who will battle it out in the Democratic primaries on Sept. 13 for Northern Brooklyn’s 18th State Senate District.

Incumbent Martin Malavé Dilan currently represents District 17 — which will become District 18 after the elections due to redistricting — and he claims that his opponent Jason Otaño moved to the district to launch his political career after failing to do so on his original home ground of Sheepshead Bay. Otaño, meanwhile, calls the other side the “worst representation in Albany that South Brooklyn has ever had.” Otaño got his start in politics as the general counsel for Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. (These articles, which reference Assemblyman Vito J. Lopez, were published prior to news of sexual harassment allegations against the Brooklyn Democratic Party boss.)

In the first of two translations below, Dilan brushes off Otaño for his lack of name recognition. As a 10-year incumbent, Dilan has secured the support of prominent unions and political figures, including Christine Quinn. The article was translated from the original El Diario La Prensa piece in Spanish.

State Senator Martin Malave Dilan sits down with El Diario La Prensa ahead of the Democratic primaries on Sept. 13. (Photo by El Diario/La Prensa)

Losing his seat in the State Senate after 10 years is not an option for Martin Malavé Dilan, a politician of Puerto Rican descent.

Dilan is convinced that his experience as a legislator in Albany, a city council member, and president of school board 32 in Brooklyn will ensure his victory against Jason Otaño, his opponent in the Democratic primaries, which will take place on Sept. 13.

“I have a history of bringing in millions of dollars to the city for low-income housing and programming for youth and the elderly,” Dilan said in the newsroom at El Diario.

Both candidates will compete for District 18, which encompasses the neighborhoods of Williamsburg, Cypress Hills, Bushwick, Bedford-Stuyvesant, East New York and part of Greenpoint.

“Otaño can’t sell to the public what he did as the general counsel for the Brooklyn borough president. He acts as if it were community service, but that was his job and they paid him a regular salary.”

Who Knows About Jason Otaño?

Dilan emphasized that he isn’t the only one who doesn’t know much about his opponent, who is supported by Rep. Nydia Velázquez and community groups in South Brooklyn.

“People ask me who that guy is that wants my job,” Dilan said after denying accusations that he is often absent from community life. “Otaño moved to Williamsburg to launch a career in public office that he was unable to start in Sheepshead Bay.”

Dilan has in his favor the support of several political heavyweights: Vito López, Democratic Assembly member of Brooklyn; Christine Quinn, speaker of the City Council; and William Thompson Jr., former City Comptroller and mayoral candidate.

Dilan also has the backing of two of the most prominent city unions: Local 32BJ, which represents building service workers, and DC37, which represents municipal public employees.

Dilan needs more than 11,000 votes to keep his seat in the State Senate.

“I’m sure that on September 13, voters will remember my work in the community, especially when it comes to affordable housing,” said Dilan, referring to a very touchy subject of the campaign, for which he has raised $100,000.

As a result of redistricting, a large portion of public housing projects in Brooklyn became part of District 18, but there is still a chronic lack of affordable housing for low-income and middle class families.

Via El Diario La Prensa, watch State Senator Martin Malavé Dilan in action as he sat down with Assemblyman Rafael L. Espinal, Jr. on May 2 for a legislative update.

In the second translation, which also originally appeared in El Diario La Prensa in Spanish, newcomer Jason Otaño jumps on that “touchy subject” of affordable housing, claiming that the current state senator favors building owners over tenants. Otaño touts his political experience working for the Brooklyn borough president, as well as endorsements from notable political officials, including Rep. Nydia Velázquez.

Jason Otaño sits down with El Diario/La Prensa. (Photo from El Diario/La Prensa)

Jason Otaño, a 33-year-old Puerto Rican lawyer, wants to replace State Senator Martin Malavé Dilan, who has been in office for a decade and represents District 18.

Otaño got his start in politics as the general counsel for Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, and has the support of Rep. Nydia Velázquez. Velázquez, a veteran legislator, has promised to equip him with the same political tools she used in her recent re-election against Dilan’s son, City Council member Erik Martin Dilan.

Otaño has also received endorsements from other well-known figures in the district such as Jesús González, candidate for City Council, and Juan Rodríguez, candidate for State Assembly.

While being interviewed in an El Diario editorial meeting, Otaño said he has the backing of community organizations leaders in Williamsburg, northern Greenpoint, Cypress Hills, and Bushwick.

Despite Otaño’s allies, it won’t be easy to oust Dilan, who has deep ties with Vito López, a State Assembly member and Chairman of the Democratic Party of Kings County.

Otaño’s former boss, Marty Markowitz, wished him the best in an email, but said he is not supporting any particular candidate in the upcoming elections.

Boricua of Brooklyn

Although he was born in Sheepshead Bay, Otaño has been living in South Brooklyn for three years. He asserts that his work has given him the visibility he needs, especially among residents of the district’s public housing complexes.

“Those are the people who have been most affected by changes in the area and I’ve been working closely with them over the last few years,” said Otaño. “Those are the same people who supported Nydia Velázquez in her recent re-election.”

With $75,000 to use for his campaign and 24 days until the election, Otaño has presented himself as the answer to “the worst representation in Albany that South Brooklyn has ever had,” in reference to Dilan’s efforts.

“Dilan has advocated for building owners, who have given him money for his campaign,” said Otaño. “He sells himself as pro-tenant, but the truth is that he supports building owners, and he’ll keep on going until he joins the Republican Party in order to stop rent control laws from being passed.”

Senator Dilan defended himself by phone: “Anyone who looks at my record in Albany will see that I’ve voted for laws that protect tenants, just like Adriano Espaillat or any other Democrat. I won’t deny that I’ve received contributions from building owners for my campaign, but Otaño has also received contributions from banks and people from outside the district.”

Dilan accused Otaño of having moved to the district simply to run for public office. “Since he doesn’t have a history here, the only thing he can do is attack his opponent.”

In the video below, via El Diario La Prensa, Jason Otaño makes his bid for New York State Senate, in a press conference at City Hall hosted by Rep. Nydia Velázquez.

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