Newly elected State Senator Julia Salazar discusses rent regulation, healthcare, more
As the neighborhoods of North Brooklyn continue to change, so do their politicians.
In September’s Democratic primary election, Julia Salazar, a first-time candidate, defeated the eight-term incumbent Senator Martin Malavé Dilan to become the Democratic nominee for the 18th district in 2018. Salazar then advanced to November’s general election, which she won after running unopposed.
The Brooklyn Eagle spoke with the newly elected 27-year-old state Senator to discuss what inspired her to enter in the race for state Senate, her thoughts on the people of District 18, her plans for the issues her district is currently facing and more.
Brooklyn Eagle: What made you decide to enter in the race for State Senate?
Julia Salazar: I was a full-time community organizer, focusing a lot on city and state legislative advocacy, at the time that I was encouraged to run for this seat. I had never run for office before and had serious doubts about challenging the political machine, but I ran because I wanted our community to finally have a representative in Albany who’s truly accountable to us, rather than to real estate or private interests. With the statewide rent laws expiring next June, I knew that North Brooklyn couldn’t afford to wait another two years.
Eagle: You identify as a Democratic Socialist — what does that mean to you?
JS: Advocating for democratic socialism means seeking to collectively build a society in which every person is not only cared for in the most fundamental ways, but also is empowered to thrive. It means believing that housing is a human right, that healthcare is a human right and that we have a collective responsibility to make that a reality. It means fighting against racial discrimination and harmful biases that have been used to divide us and building people-power through a strong labor movement.
Eagle: How did you react when you found out you won the Democratic primary election?
JS: When I found out I won the primary, I was in a room full of constituents and supporters, many of whom had volunteered hours of their time to the campaign. It was really overwhelming; I felt light-headed. I had felt confident on election day that we were going to pull it off, but I was absolutely shocked by the margin of victory and the total voter turnout.
Eagle: Why do you believe the people of District 18 voted for you?
JS: People in North Brooklyn have been organizing for decades to fight for change. They came out in absolutely unprecedented numbers on primary day because they wanted to elect a state Senator who they knew would be truly accountable to all of us, rather than to corporate interests or the real estate lobby.
Eagle: What three main issues does District 18 currently face, and as state Senator, what kind of solutions would you propose to solve these problems?
JS: One, North Brooklyn is facing a severe housing crisis. Families are being displaced due to deregulation and lack of tenants’ protections. With the rent laws up for renewal next June, it’s urgent that we finally end deregulatory policies, expand rent stabilization and secure affordable housing that’s truly affordable to the majority working-class residents of our district.
Two, we need to do more to advocate for immigrant rights, especially for our undocumented neighbors. People are living in fear due to draconian federal immigration policies, and we need to do everything we can in NY state to protect and empower non-citizen New Yorkers. The priorities are to pass the DREAM Act, to pass Green Light legislation to grant the right to get a NYS driver’s license regardless of immigration status, and to pass Right to Counsel legislation to ensure that all non-citizens have the same right to a public defender / attorney in court proceedings just as citizens do.
Three, many in North Brooklyn are unable to receive medical care due to being uninsured or deeply under-insured. Additionally, cuts to Medicaid and Medicare have threatened to close our safety net hospitals and have compromised the quality of care. We need to pass the Reproductive Health Act as soon as possible in NY to codify reproductive rights and expand access to abortion and other reproductive services. And we need to pass the New York Health Act to implement single-payer healthcare for all New Yorkers.