Julia Salazar is the Democratic Socialist poised to win a seat in the New York State Senate. On September 13, Salazar won the Democratic primary, beating long-standing incumbent Martin Dilan by 58 percent to 42 percent. No Republican is running for that seat, which has long been a Democratic stronghold — so Salazar is apparently on her way to the New York State Senate.
Although she’s a candidate in a state election, Salazar has gotten some national attention, even winning the endorsement of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, thanks to her affiliation with the Democratic-Socialist movement. Recently, Salazar started making headlines again when she announced — on Twitter — that she had once been sexually assaulted by David Keyes, a spokesman of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. You can read Salazar’s statement about that here.
But Salazar has also gotten some bad press and mixed reviews from people who know her well. Salazar has been slammed for lying about her heritage. More recently, court documents obtained by Heavy and first reported by the Daily Mail have revealed that she may have been accused of having an affair with Mets great Keith Hernandez.
Here’s what you need to know about Julia Salazar:
1. Salazar Sued Keith Hernandez’s Ex Wife, Kai For Damages After Kai Allegedly Said Salazar Had an Affair With Keith
Court documents obtained by Heavy — and first reported on by the Daily Mail — indicate that back in 2010, in the midst of Keith Hernandez’s divorce from his then-wife Kai, Salazar wound up in the middle of the couple’s ugly break up.
Salazar, 21 at the time, was living in her mother’s Jupiter, Florida home, which was next door to the Hernandez home. The nieghbors used to be friendly, with Salazar house-sitting for the Hernandez family when they were out of town. But in 2010, Kai accused Salazar of — among other things — stealing valuables from the home while the couple was out of town.
Salazar retaliated by filing a complaint against Kai, claiming that Kai had defamed her by accusing her of theft and by accusing her of having an affair with Keith Hernandez, whom she says she saw as a father figure. Kai has denied that she ever accused Salazar of having an affair. For his part, Keith Hernandez has said there was never anything between him and Salazar.
2. Hernandez’s Wife, Kai, Said Salazar Stole Thousands of Dollars — And Her Identity — While House Sitting
Salazar was a student at Columbia University when police arrested her on charges of identity theft and stealing money and valuables from Keith Hernandez’s home. Kai, Keith Hernandez’s ex-wife, said that Salazar had stolen her personal information and used it to try and access her personal bank acccount while house sitting in Jupiter, Florida.
Kai also said that Salazar had taken $11,800 in cash, $1,175 in Pottery Barn vouchers and $950 worth of wine while house-sitting. Police let Salazar go pretty quickly and dismissed the charges against her, saying there was nothing to them. But in retaliation, Salazar filed a defamation suit against Hernandez.
3. Salazar Says She Is a Working Class Immigrant — But Her Critics Say She Is Neither of Those Things
Julia Salazar and her brother, Alex, disagree about their family heritage. Salazar has told voters that she immigrated from Colombia as a baby and that her father, Luis, did not have resident status at the time. When pushed by a Vox reporter, Salazar clarified that in fact, she was born in Miami, but that her family constantly shuttled between Florida and Colombia when she was young. She also confirmed that her father had legal resident status in the US and that her mother, Christine, is a US citizen who was born in New Jersey.
“To me, Colombia … was always my family’s home, when we were kids,” Salazar told Vox, in an attempt to clarify her statements about being an immigrant.
Salazar’s brother Alex also disagrees with Julia about how much time the family spent in Colombia when they were young. He told Vox that the family went to Colombia for his baptism, and then once again when he was a toddler. But after that, the visits back to Colombia were few and far between. After their parents divorced, Julia and Alex were raised in Miami by their mother.
The siblings also disagree about their social class growing up. Julia has described her family as “working class,” stressing that her mother worked two jobs to support herself and her kids. But Alex told Vox that the family was definitely middle class: “My mom certainly worked very hard. But if we’re talking about what class level we were at, you’d have to have a pretty wide definition of working class — to include everyone other than millionaires, or something like that. We lived a comfortable life, I’ll put it that way.”
4. Salazar Says She Is Jewish, a Claim Which Many Dispute
Salazar was raised in a Christian home. Her brother remembers traveling to Colombia to be baptized; her father was buried in a Catholic church, and her mother attends an Evangelical church in Brooklyn.
As a young student at Columbia University, Salazar became the president of the university’s chapter of the conservative Christians United for Israel. You can watch her speaking about her work with the group, here.
But at some point during her time at Columbia, Salazar decided that her family actually had Jewish roots. In 2012, she traveled to Israel as part of a Christians United for Israel visit. But she stayed on past the group’s trip to visit towns in the West Bank, where she met Palestinians and heard their stories. Upon returning home, she left Christians United for Israel and began to express more pro-Palestinian views. Not long afterwards, Salazar began describing herself as “Jewish” and talking about her “Jewish upbringing.”
After Tablet published an article questioning Salazar’s Jewish roots, a group of her classmates from Columbia University published an article defending her. The group, writing in the Forward, said, We knew her as a woman with her own place in Judaism’s complicated history who yearned to connect with her roots and her past. Julia’s story is a celebration of 21st-century American Jews who embrace Judaism and Jewish life as adults, even when provided few resources to do so while growing up.”
5. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Has Endorsed Salazar and Is Standing By Her
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democratic Socialist candidate for Congress from New York, was an early supporter of Julia Salazar who continues to stand behind her.
The Democratic Socialist party reacted with anger to accusations that Julia Salazar was lying about her biography. Democratic Socialists bristled at the idea that Salazar could be questioned about whether or not she was actually Jewish, or whether she was really an immigrant.
“We just want to really point to the issues and not focus on, you know, labels and whether somebody fits a label or not,” New York City DSA co-chair Bianca Cunningham told The Intercept.
Corbin Trent, a spokesperson for Ocasio-Cortez, said that she remains “100 percent behind Julia.”
“Julia is far and away the best choice to represent the people of North Brooklyn in Albany,” Trent said. “As part of a broader movement in New York and across the country she has been working to improve the lives of all New Yorkers by fighting for universal healthcare, affordable housing, and wholistic criminal justice reform. A vote for Julia on September the 13th will bring much needed new leadership for North Brooklyn to Albany.”