“When you’ve just moved in from Florida, and you don’t have a historic memory of the district,” he said, “you really don’t know what’s going on, so the only thing you can do is attack.”
But it was Dilan who went on the offensive during the debate. He criticized Salazar for being a former member of the Republican Party and moving to Brooklyn as a transplant and contributing to the wave of gentrification.
Salazar said she was raised in a conservative family in Florida, and when she turned 18 years old, she registered with the GOP. But after she moved to New York to study at Columbia University, her political views evolved.
“For the last several years, and my entire adult life, I’ve been a progressive advocate. I worked on Democratic candidates’ electoral campaigns,” she said. “I am proud to have experienced a political evolution.”
The incumbent also accused the challenger, who moved to Bushwick four years ago, of living in a “luxury apartment building” that accepted tax credits. Salazar responded that she lives in a three-floor walkup with no luxury amenities.
“To blame the affordable housing crisis on tenants, including myself, is outrageous,” she said.
Similar to the race between Congressman Joseph Crowley and now-Democratic nominee Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, this State Senate battle is between a longtime elected official and a young activist calling for change.
Dilan, who was born in Williamsburg, lived in Bushwick and is now a resident of Cypress Hills, is running on his experience as a former school board president, councilman and now state senator. His accomplishments include bringing hundreds of thousands of dollars in affordable housing, nearly a dozen new schools and a youth center to the district.
Salazar, meanwhile, said the district, which encompasses parts of Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Bushwick and Cypress Hills, is at the forefront of the city’s affordability crisis. She argued that District 18 needs a state senator who is “truly accountable to the residents of the district” instead of developers.
“Our communities are in crisis. Rents are skyrocketing out of control and people are being displaced every year,” she said. “It’s because our legislators in Albany have failed us by passing rent laws that work for developers instead of for tenants.”
“In Albany, we have only strengthened rent protections,” Dilan responded. “I have an impeccable record and I would match my progressive record with any senator.”
The current state senator also highlighted the work he’s doing now on several community issues, including L train shutdown mitigation plans, cleanup efforts at Newtown Creek, and NYCHA’s plan to build market-rate housing at the Cooper Park Houses to fund improvements.
“My opponent is talking the talk and I’ve been doing the talk,” Dilan said.
When he asked her what she has done to help families in the district, Salazar pointed to her previous work advocating for the passage of the Right to Know Act and other legislation with the coalition Communities United for Police Reform.
“I’ve been an advocate at the city and state level for a range of issues, from criminal legal reform to police accountability to universal long-term care, and I’ll continue to do it in Albany,” she said.
During the lightning round part of the debate, both Dilan and Salazar agreed on a number of items, including allowing undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses, term limits for state lawmakers, same-day voter registration, and voting and legalizing recreational marijuana.
But they also had their differences. Dilan supports Cuomo’s re-election, while Salazar does not. Salazar believes there should be a permanent cap for app-based for-hire vehicles, and Dilan does not. Salar supports the right for public employees to strike, and Dilan does not.
Voters will choose between the two candidates on the Democratic primary, which is set for Thursday, September 13.