The long-time Bushwick state pol facing a stiff primary challenge from the 27-year-old, self-proclaimed democratic socialist looking to unseat him picked up a powerful endorsement this week when Mayor DeBlasio threw his support behind his campaign.
Hizzoner is backing state Sen. Martin Malavé Dilan — a one-time ally of the disgraced Brooklyn Democratic Party boss, the late Vito Lopez — in his re-election bid to retain a seat he’s held since 2002, representing Brooklyn’s 18th District, which includes parts of Bushwick, Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Cypress Hills, East New York, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and Brownsville.
DeBlasio said the decision to endorse Dilan is “personal” following the years he worked together with his son Erik Dilan — who now represents many of the same neighborhoods in the Assembly — during their time as councilmembers.
“I have been very close to them personally. I’ve worked with them closely. They’ve both done really good work for the city. And when they asked for my support, I knew what I was getting. I knew that they had both been good, loyal Democrats who had done a lot of good work for the city,” DeBlasio told Errol Louis on “Inside City Hall” earlier this week. “I hear good things about the opponent too, but I don’t happen to know her, so I went with someone that, to me, was proven.”
But for others who have endorsed Dilan, the decision was more about his record of service to a district he’s called home since he was born — as opposed to his challenger, Julia Salazar, who just moved to Bushwick four years ago after living in her native Florida for most of her life, was a registered Republican in the Sunshine State until changing her party affiliation to Democrat in New York last year, and led a pro-life group in college, said Brooklyn Democratic Party boss Frank Seddio.
“Unlike his challenger, who is a phony progressive and was a Florida Republican until last year, and just parachuted into the district to run, Marty Dilan has been there for the people for decades,” said Seddio. “He has helped bring schools, health programs, housing maintenance funds, progressive criminal justice reforms, rent regulation protections and the list goes on and on.”
Still, Salazar has picked up her own fair share of support from other pols, candidates, and local leaders, including most recently Councilman Brad Lander (D–Park Slope), who this week joined councilmembers Jumaane Williams (D–Midwood), Antonio Reynoso (D–Bushwick), and Carlos Menchaca (D–Red Hook), along with Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D–Williamsburg), and Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon in backing the insurgent candidate on the heels of her fellow democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s historic upset in June.
Salazar — whose campaign spokesman said her early beliefs were shaped by growing up in a conservative immigrant family, but is now proudly pro-choice — is not discouraged by Hizzoner’s endorsement, and said it only shows how entrenched Dilan is in machine politics.
“It’s not unusual for the mayor to endorse a long-term incumbent. What is unusual is for an insurgent campaign like Julia’s to have racked up so many endorsements from progressive local elected officials,” said Salazar’s campaign rep Michael Kinnucan. “Those endorsements reflect a widespread recognition that after 16 years of Sen. Dilan’s rule, it’s time for change in North Brooklyn.”
The court on Wednesday again denied Dilan’s appeal to try to kick Salazar off the ballot by claiming she has not lived in the district long enough after a judge first threw out the lawsuit earlier this month, according to Kinnucan, who said Dilan will likely bring the case to the Court of Appeals in Albany.
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A Brooklyn judge tossed out a different sitting pol’s attempt to try to kick his own challenger off the ballot earlier this month.
State Sen. Simcha Felder (D–Midwood), who still sits across the aisle with the Republicans to give them a majority in the upper house despite the now-defunct Independent Democratic Conference dissolving in April, hauled candidate Blake Morris to court last month, charging before Justice Edgar Walker that he shouldn’t be on the ballot for the upcoming Democratic primary in September because he isn’t using his legal name of “Lawrence Blake Morris.”
But Walker — who also recently rejected Bushwick state Sen. Martin Dilan’s lawsuit to knock his own challenger off the ballot — threw out the suit on Aug. 9, arguing that Morris has used the name “Blake” for years both socially and professionally.
But it doesn’t, and shouldn’t, even matter what name Morris wanted to use, because this costly and failed suit was just Felder’s way of trying to get what he wants — it’s the same game he’s played up in Albany holding up the budget and much-needed legislation for his various controversial causes, like funding an armed cop in every school, according to the challenger.
“He was holding me hostage, it was extortion, this is what Felder does,” said Morris. “He extorts the entire state over the state budget on health care and speed safety and when it’s not in session he extorts me.”
Felder did not respond to a request for comment, but according to Morris, he is not appealing the court’s decision.