Challenging Powerful State Senator, Salazar Pushes Progressive Agenda

Julia Salazar is running for the New York State Senate, representing Brooklyn’s District 18. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

Activist and community organizer Julia Salazar, 27, is challenging state Sen. Martin Dilan, who has represented the 18th District in Brooklyn for 16 years, in the Sept. 13 Democratic primaries. Born in Colombia, where she immigrated from with her mom when she was barely 1, she touts a strategy of not receiving any funds from corporations or economic groups, in order to arrive in Albany “free” and with no strings attached so she can boost a progressive agenda. Below are excerpts from an interview with El Diario’s Edwin Martinez.

Why vote for you and not your opponent?

Probably the main factor is that we need to fight for fairness in the rent laws, which expire next year. Albany needs to change and we must fight for rent laws that benefit tenants and not the developers and corporations who have benefited all these years with the complicity of Dilan. With him there, we won’t pass progressive legislation.

For those who don’t know you, what can you tell them about your political experience?

I have never been elected to office, nor have I worked for elected officials, because I have always worked with grassroots groups. But I have always fought for people’s rights. I have fought for Right-to-Know legislation, for the protection of the people’s civil rights, for laws protecting people with disabilities, for criminal justice reform at the state level. My experience is to fight for the community.

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Many women currently feel attacked because their reproductive rights are in danger. Is this going to be a priority for you in Albany?

This is an urgent issue, especially when we are seeing the federal government attacking women’s rights, reproductive rights, the rights of vulnerable communities… This is why we need to codify the rights of everybody in New York, including undocumented people whose health services are being denied, to have access to abortion.

What other projects do you have in mind?

We need to pass the Liberty Act, more forcefully avoid cooperation with ICE, work toward the right to legal defense regardless of immigration status, approve driver’s licenses for everyone (…). We also need to make sure that we are really a sanctuary state, because although de Blasio and Cuomo use sanctuary rhetoric, we are no such thing.

The story of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, among others, has highlighted a new movement of women in power. Do you feel identified with her?

Absolutely! Also, our commitment not to receive money from corporations or economic groups shows that we can get there without sacrificing our convictions. Alexandria’s campaign shows the people that you can make a strong campaign without compromising your integrity (…)

Many political fights involve lies and dirty tricks. Have you noticed any of those tactics from your opponent?

Of course. He attacks me because I’m working class and I come from a conservative family, and he is trying to paint me as a conservative Republican. The good thing is, my record for the past 10 years speaks for itself, and proves that I’m a progressive leader. When I was a teenager I registered as a Republican thinking that that was my team, but in a matter of months I immediately changed my registration and I’m a Democrat, but he is trying to use this anecdote to attack me.

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