Politics Julia Salazar overcomes controversy to notch another victory for democratic socialists

05:51  14 september  2018
05:51  14 september  2018 Source:   vox.com

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a close up of a woman: Democratic New York state Senate candidate Julia Salazar in August.© Mary Altaffer/AP Democratic New York state Senate candidate Julia Salazar in August.

She’ll be headed to the New York State Senate, after toppling a long-serving incumbent in her Brooklyn district.

The latest win for the insurgent progressive movement within the Democratic Party is in a New York State Senate district: Julia Salazar, the 27-year-old democratic socialist whose campaign drew national attention, won her primary Thursday to be the Democratic candidate on the ballot in November. Salazar defeated Democratic state Sen. Martin Dilan, who was running for his ninth term.

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It’s rare for a state Senate race, even one in a section of Brooklyn home to many reporters, to get much notice. But Salazar’s campaign was unusual, featuring national media attention, comparisons to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and a high degree of scrutiny of her background — her brother publicly said that she was lying about her past, claiming to be from a working-class family when her mother made a middle-class salary and claiming to be an immigrant when she and her mother were both born in the US.

Salazar is a longtime DSA activist, having served on the organizing committee of the DSA’s socialist-feminist working group. She has campaigned with Cynthia Nixon, the actress and progressive candidate for governor. She has been endorsed by Ocasio-Cortez, who has done campaign events with her. She’s been the subject of very friendly interviews in popular left outlets like Jacobin, whose reading groups she used to attend, and the podcast Chapo Trap House.

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But in the weeks before the election, much of the story she told about her identity came under scrutiny, from her immigrant status to her family income.

“I immigrated to this country with my family when I was very little,” she said at one campaign stop. “My family immigrated to the US from Colombia when I was a baby,” she said in an interview with Jacobin magazine. Those statements imply that she was born in Colombia, which is not true.

Salazar claims that she and her family shuttled back and forth from Colombia — her father worked as a cargo pilot, sometimes flying planes full of flowers between Medellin and Bogota. The family would join him in Colombia, despite living in the United States, and stay at Luis Salazar’s family home. Her brother Alex Salazar, though, denied spending very much time in Colombia as a child, and said Julia’s characterization of their childhood visits to Colombia is “not at all” accurate.

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Salazar has also frequently referred to her background as “working class,” whereas Alex said he would call them middle class. Her father earned a decent salary as a pilot, according to all the Salazars, but since her mother raised the kids, they only saw a portion of that money through alimony and child support. They grew up in a fairly large home in a nice city — Jupiter, Florida — but her mother at times had to push hard to make ends meet, working primarily as a pharmaceutical sales rep with occasionally a second job with a catering company.

This intrafamily dispute got a lot of attention in the weeks leading up to the primary. Beyond the typical concerns about a candidate’s background, a socialist falsely claiming to be a working-class immigrant — one who has built her candidacy on her claim to be the best person to represent a racially and economically diverse district — would feel like a particularly significant betrayal of trust.

In the end, though, it didn’t seem to matter to voters.

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