About a hundred people packed into the dark Peruvian fusion cuisine restaurant Barchaa on Wilson Ave. in Bushwick last Friday to watch as the latest Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) candidate launched a campaign set their sights on another Brooklyn Democrat named Dilan.
The challenger is Boris Santos, 29. Santos is DSA-backed State Sen. Julia Salazar’s (D-Bushwick-Williamsburg-Greenpoint) Chief of Staff. This campaign will coincidentally pit Santos against Erik Dilan of the 54th district (D-Bushwick, Cypress Hills, East New York, Bedford-Stuyvesant), son of former State Sen. Martin Dilan, who ran and lost against Salazar in the 2018 primaries. Erik is Martin’s son which sets up a rematch of the state senate race dynamic.
There are already some immediate similarities between Santos and Salazar’s bids for office. Some of Erik Dilan’s district overlaps with his father’s former district meaning that this will be familiar territory. However, Erik Dilan’s district does not have Greenpoint or Williamsburg, which was a big boon for the Salazar campaign.
Also, like Salazar, Santos is running as a political newcomer and insurgent with a populist anti-capitalist message promising to shake up the system. He’s also running on the argument that, like his father, Erik Dilan has mostly been an absent presence in the district, and disconnected from the needs and desires of the constituents.
“This race, and the contrast between me and my incumbent opponent is fundamentally about one thing and one thing only. Where he tries to do the bidding of special interests, like real estate, I will work on behalf of the many, not the few. I will work on behalf of the working class and poor, not those with money in their pockets. I value participation, my democratic principles,” said Santos.
Santos cited growing up as a Williamsburg native in Section 8 housing, and that his upbringing was a reason for his interest in getting into politics. In an admission of how difficult the campaign will be, Santos said that he was ready to face down criticism of being called “hot-headed,” “naive,” “idealistic,” or a “criminal.” Instead, he seemed to embrace the idealism and said that it was borne out of a lifetime of watching the system fail the working class.
When speaking to Kings County Politics over the phone, Santos said he wanted to focus on five different important issues: housing justice, climate justice, criminal justice, education, and health care. These five planks offer a comprehensive overview of a very progressive plan to overhaul the political establishment in the model that’s towards an anti-capitalist model of government rather than a model that seeks to reform working within the existing system.
No more obvious is this anti-capitalist approach towards legislation evident than in Santos rhetoric to housing justice. First and foremost, the goal is sweeping reform which means ending homelessness, building more affordable housing, and rethinking the landlord-tenant model for housing. When it came to the nuts and bolts of legislation, Santos was critical of the latest progressive housing laws passed in June saying that they got about 80 percent of what they wanted, but that they didn’t go far enough.
He identified the Major Capital Improvement (MCI) and Individual Apartment Improvement (IAI), which Santos believes should be abolished altogether. He also said that a good cause eviction bill should have been passed and a sign of how lacking progressiveness New York is in comparison to states like California, who recently passed a good cause eviction bill.
Another way that Santos broke with the Democratic Party establishment was with the notion that affordable housing is contingent on whether or not there are good and bad landlords. Instead, keeping in line with DSA values, it’s capitalism and the greed that capitalism enables that is the root cause of rent hikes or good cause evictions rather than the individual failures of landlords.
“It’s not a good or bad landlord model that we need to look at, but it’s anti-capitalist model that we need to look at. Because it is greed that has driven at the bottom dollar, profit-making greed that’s at the bottom of all of this. And that more so, truly, what encapsulates the conversation better, I would think, rather than bad landlord good landlord,” said Santos.
For Santos, to remake and remodel society in a way that moves away from capitalism and more towards anti-capitalistic models of homeownership including community and public ownership which would be instrumental in bringing power back to tenants.
“For me, housing is big because I want to push back against the privatizing of the management side of our public housing…. I believe in keeping public housing public, but I also believe in funding it to the point that it should be funded. When you talk about preserving our homeowners, black and brown homeowners in the community, I want to establish a community land trust that allows for collective ownership that would eliminate speculation from housing.”
Similar pushback against privatization can be attached to the other planks, including the New York Health Act, which would promote Medicare For All in New York. Also, as far as Climate Justice, he endorsed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act which would transition into zero carbon emissions by the year 2050, but said that we should push for legislation that urgently pushes to reduce carbon emissions faster. Likewise, education and criminal justice should move back from the private sector and into the public sphere.
Finally, Santos weighed in on the Presidential race. Like the wider DSA organization and DSA candidates running for public office, Santos unsurprisingly endorsed Bernie Sanders, noting that a win for Bernie is a win for the rest of them, and that most of his platform has been inspired and infused with parts of Sanders’ platform on a national stage.