The mother and brother of a New York state senate candidate have accused her of lying about her working class, immigrant background

New York State Senate candidate Julia Salazar

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New York State Senate candidate Julia Salazar
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Screenshot/NYC DSA

  • New York state senate candidate Julia Salazar is under fire after her mother and brother disputed her accounts of being raised in a working-class, immigrant family.
  • While Salazar has said she was brought to the US as baby from Colombia, her family says she never lived in Colombia, and that she has exaggerated her stories of socio-economic hardship.
  • The 27-year-old Democratic socialist has attracted a series of positive media profiles after progressive insurgent Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – and other top state Democrats – endorsed her.

New York state senate candidate Julia Salazar, an insurgent progressive endorsed by fellow Democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is under fire after her mother and brother disputed her accounts of being raised in a working-class, immigrant family.

Salazar, 27, has provided confusing and sometimes contradictory descriptions of her background, including that she was partially raised in Colombia by a single mother who at times struggled to make ends meet – a story her brother, Alex, and mother, Christine, rebutted in a recent City & State story.

“My family immigrated to the US from Colombia when I was a baby, and my mom ended up raising my brother and me as a single mom, without a college degree, and from a working-class background,” Salazar told Jacobin last month.

Salazar later said that she was raised between Florida and Colombia and spent “the first years” of her life in the South American country.

But Alex, who is two years older than Salazar, says the two were raised entirely in Florida and that the family made just a handful of trips back to the South American country to visit family. He also disputed her claims that the family struggled financially.

“We were very much middle class. We had a house in Jupiter along the river, it was in a beautiful neighborhood,” Alex Salazar told City & State. “I feel very strongly about my family and I want to tell the truth.”

Alex provided a photo of the large Florida home he says the family lived in until their parents divorced in 1998.

While Salazar’s father was born and raised in Colombia, he became a naturalized US citizen in 1984, several years before his daughter was born. Christine was born and raised in the US and told City & State that she never lived in Colombia.

Christine also told City & State that there was never a time when her children worked in order to help their mother “make ends meet,” as Salazar claims on her campaign website.

“My kids always worked, from the time they were 14. I encouraged that because I thought there was a lot of value in that in terms of learning and responsibility so that was the purpose behind them having part-time jobs … not the light bill,” Christine told the outlet.

Salazar has also claimed that she was raised “by a single mom without a college degree,” but Florida Atlantic University told City & State that Salazar’s mother received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the school in 1999, when Salazar was in elementary school.

Some progressives – and conservative critics – have also called attention to Salazar’s past as a Zionist, anti-abortion conservative who reportedly falsely identified herself as a Jew while a student at Columbia University.

Salazar is running as a more progressive alternative to state Sen. Martin Dilan in her Brooklyn district and has attracted a series of positive media profiles and seen a dramatic spike in donations and volunteers since Ocasio-Cortez’s primary victory in June. And she’s been endorsed by a slew of top progressives in the state, including gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon, attorney general candidate Zephyr Teachout, and Brooklyn congresswoman Nydia Velazquez.