As the June 23 primaries inch closer, growing hostilities between the Democratic candidates for the 18th Senate District have shown the party’s growing rift in the borough.
Freshman incumbent Senator Julia Salazar (D-Bushwick, Cypress Hills, Greenpoint, Williamsburgh, parts of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brownsville, East New York), a Florida-born Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) darling, embodies the district’s newer, younger, hipper, and whiter crowd of progressives and radicals who feel the Democratic party is too corporatist and out of touch with ordinary people.
Her challenger, Bushwick native and community advocate Andy Marte (D) claims to run on behalf of the district’s longer-established, less affluent black and Latino communities, who often feel that these younger progressives threaten their lives and livelihoods through gentrification.
“[W]e have political leaders that know how to join national protests but don’t know how to build one unit of affordable housing. We need concrete results not philosophical, theoretical jargon that causes chaos and rioting,” said Marte. “I began this campaign pleading to turn protests into real solutions. How poetic that as election day approaches, we have come full circle. We are at a crossroads in this country, but we will move towards a better community.”
He continued, using a No True Scotsman approach to attack Salazar’s credentials as a Democrat. “The current regime of North Brooklyn politicians are not real Democrats. They believe that we should create more chaos for their political benefit. They argue that we should cancel rent, get rid of police, legalize prostitution, loot, steal, cheat, lie,” Marte said. “The new team of Democrats of North Brooklyn believes that we should preserve affordable housing, protect senior citizen programs, save our Summer Youth Programs, promote healthy lifestyles, revive our small businesses, and uplift family values.”
Salazar parried his criticisms of her vision of the district, alleging that Marte’s Georgetown degree undermines his Bushwick roots, exaggerating his support for a religious exemption on vaccines, and suggested that he was a conservative masquerading as a Democrat. “Andy Marte isn’t a decades-long Bushwick resident. He chose to go to college in Washington, DC on Vito Lopez’s dime instead of attending one of numerous world-class universities and colleges in New York,” she said.
”Andy has been on the record supporting Donald Trump and, even amidst a pandemic, advocating against vaccine requirements in public schools. These are not the progressive values or political views of my constituents in Bushwick, Brownsville, Cypress Hills, East New York, Williamsburg & Greenpoint.”
Marte responded to Salazar’s critiques of his Democratic values by sharing audio recordings of her own controversial statements, including praise for Soviet Union founder Vladimir Lenin, an admission that she only was a Democratic as a means to an end, and recalling her time as a religious right Republican while a student at Columbia.
Salazar retorted, highlighting her endorsements from such key electeds as Congressmember Nydia Velazquez (D-Brooklyn Heights, Boerum Hill, Bushwick, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Dumbo, East New York, East Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Gowanus, Red Hook, Sunset Park, Williamsburg, Queens, Lower Manhattan) and Councilmember Antonio Reynoso (Bushwick, Greenpoint, Williamsburg), while dismissing Marte’s endorsements, particularly that of District Leader Tommy Torres (D-Williamsburg, Bushwick, Ridgewood).
“Tommy Torres lost twice in his previous attempts to run for City Council against Antonio Reynoso,” she said. “One of those times he was disqualified because he wasn’t a legal resident of the district,” she said. “I think it’s self-evident that I deeply value my Congresswoman’s support and my Council Member’s support and that my policy views are aligned with theirs rather than with someone who would support Andy…I do not care that Andy Marte has the support of two people who hold elected positions in the Democratic Party.”
KCP contacted Torres, who has known Marte for a very long time. He praised Marte for returning to his community after college to help those less fortunate and his work with community leaders to improve NYCHA housing and address other racial injustices, including those related to COVID-19.
Torres also criticized Salazar’s accusations against him and Marte, asserting nothing good could come from such mudslinging. “Andy’s not a Trump supporter. We’re all Democrats here in Brooklyn,” he said. “Wherever you are on that line in terms of Democratic, progressive, less progressive. We’re all here to deliver to our communities. We shouldn’t get into battle for who’s friendly with who. It’s not what we should waste our time on.”
Despite Torres’ call for civility, Marte himself sees this primary as something much bigger. “Where were all the politicians’ protests when Black and Brown homeowners were getting their properties stolen right under our noses? Where were all the politicians’ protests when all our NYCHA developments were turned into private property? Where were all the politicians’ protests when we faced the highest rates of evictions in our neighborhood and the development of only luxury buildings?,” he asked rhetorically.
“The future of Brooklyn and our Democratic Party hinges on this election,” Marte added. “Our community will vote to continue to exacerbate gentrification or it will vote to put an end to it.