The DSA working group chapter treasurer in the coal mine

A brief note in Sen. Julia Salazar's disclosure paperwork points to a sea change in New York politics. 
A brief note in Sen. Julia Salazar’s disclosure paperwork points to a sea change in New York politics.  Photo Credit: Shaye Weaver

Question No. 7 on the annual financial-disclosure forms filled out by New York politicians tends to elicit variants on a theme.

The question asks respondents to list “any position the reporting individual held as an officer of any political party or political organization, as a member of any political party committee, or as a political party district leader.”

Dutifully, officials note that they are a member of the Queens-based Guy R. Brewer United Democratic Club (Sen. Leroy Comrie Jr.) or a Town of Islip Republican committee zone leader (Sen. Phil Boyle) or on the executive committee of the Chemung County Republican committee (Sen. Thomas O’Mara). 

Then there is Brooklyn freshman Sen. Julia Salazar’s entry for No. 7: “Member of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA)” and “Former Treasurer and Organizing Committee officer for Socialist Feminist working group of NYC chapter of DSA”.

The departure from the typical one-of-two-parties answer showed up in Salazar’s 2018 disclosure form posted along with those of other statewide elected officials and members of the Assembly and State Senate hours before everyone left town for the July 4 holiday last week.

(The form also included the fact that Salazar received $18,000 from a trust during the reporting period. That was question No. 13.)

Salazar’s DSA history is no surprise. While she ran and won on the Democratic line last year, she was open about and campaigned on her DSA affiliation.

But it’s a stark public-record sign of how much politics has changed in New York in recent years, a leftward shift that defined the legislative session.

That legislative session was marked by things like revamped rent regulations and driver’s licenses for immigrants in the country illegally, plus an expansive climate change plan and reforms to the criminal justice system.

A corporation-skeptic mood led to a big Amazon headquarters project being nudged out of Long Island City by a coalition of activists and politicians, including Salazar, watching them. 

You know there’s a new wind blowing when Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who once touted his fiscal moderation, went on the radio this week and said, “I am the left,” pushing back against the suggestion that he’s not as progressive as some of the newcomers.

New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics disclosure records aren’t easily searchable — many officials handwrite their entries, for starters — but a socialist party position on these forms does not appear to be particularly common.

Maybe that will change as DSA comes off a still-undecided Queens district attorney race and looks to future races and left-leaning causes in NYC.