NEW YORK (AP) — A socialist candidate for New York’s state Senate finds out on Thursday whether odd revelations about her life story will doom her bid to join the ranks of leftist insurgents knocking out mainstream Democrats.
Julia Salazar’s campaign against Sen. Martin Dilan, a 16-year incumbent in Brooklyn’s 18th Senate District, began attracting attention last spring after fellow Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez scored a surprise win in June’s congressional primary.
But recently, the race has become a soap opera as reporters began digging into her background.
Salazar, 27, faced criticism for saying she was an immigrant from Colombia who struggled financially when she was actually born in Florida and had hundreds of thousands of dollars in a trust fund. She was scrutinized, too, over a political and religious conversion during her years at Columbia University, where she transformed from a Republican, anti-abortion Christian to a hard-left, Jewish Democrat. One group revoked its endorsement after learning Salazar hadn’t graduated from Columbia, as she said on its survey.
Salazar said she “inadvertently misrepresented” her history.
Then things really got strange. Reporters revealed that in 2011, Salazar was accused of attempted bank fraud by the estranged wife of a famous neighbor, former New York Met Keith Hernandez.
Salazar was arrested but not prosecuted. She later filed a lawsuit accusing Hernandez’s wife, Kai Hernandez, of trying to frame her because she erroneously believed she was having an affair with her husband. Kai Hernandez settled the lawsuit for $20,000.
Then, two days before the election, a conservative news site, The Daily Caller, told the Salazar campaign it was about to publish a story identifying her as a woman who had anonymously accused a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of sexual assault.
Saying she didn’t want to be “outed” against her will, Salazar tweeted about the incident, saying the Netanyahu aide, David Keyes, had bullied her into an unwanted sex act.
Keyes called it a false allegation “made by someone who has proven to be repeatedly dishonest about her own life.” He has since denied allegations by other women who accused him of aggressive sexual behavior and on Thursday said he was taking time off to clear his name.
Salazar says unfair scrutiny has obscured her message that Dilan hasn’t done enough to fight gentrification.
Dilan, 67, said his constituents will stick with him over Salazar, who he described as a pretender and a gentrifier herself.
Thursday’s primary will also determine whether there will be political repercussions for Democratic state senators who broke with their party to join a group that supported Republican control of the chamber.
The schism was little noticed outside Albany until US President Donald Trump’s election galvanized liberals.
All eight members of the so-called Independent Democratic Conference face primary challenges, even after Gov. Andrew Cuomo brokered a deal to reunify senate Democrats.
Bronx Sen. Jeff Klein, the former IDC leader, is facing a challenge from Alessandra Biaggi, an attorney who has worked for Cuomo and Hillary Clinton’s campaigns.
Queens Sen. Jose Peralta will try to beat back opponent Jessica Ramos, a community organizer and former city hall aide.