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State Senate Challenger Julia Salazar's Confusing Backstory Gets Weirder With Keith Hernandez Cameo

Julia Salazar at a McCarren Park rally last month
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Julia Salazar at a McCarren Park rally last month Mary Altaffer/AP/Shutterstock

Embattled state Senate hopeful Julia Salazar was arrested as a teenager for allegedly impersonating and stealing from Kai Hernandez, the ex-wife of Met legend Keith Hernandez, according to multiple reports.

Charges were not ultimately pressed against the insurgent Democratic Socialist candidate, who has faced a series of increasingly bizarre controversies in recent weeks related to her background. The latest trouble concerns audio recordings that, in the view of the Florida police department, suggested Salazar once called Kai Hernandez's bank with the goal of gaining access to her personal account.

Tablet Magazine published those recordings on Thursday, and spoke with the detective who initially arrested Salazar in 2011. He continues to believe that Salazar made the phone calls, but says she was likely not charged because "a voice ID is not enough for the state attorney's office."

Initial details about Salazar's arrest were first revealed hours earlier by the Daily Mail, which obtained a defamation suit that the candidate filed against Kai Hernandez in 2013, two years after the charges were dismissed. The outlet reports that Salazar, a freshman at Columbia University at the time of the incident, was also accused of stealing $11,800 in cash, $1,175 in Pottery Barn vouchers and $950 worth of wine while house-sitting for the soon-to-be ex-couple in Jupiter, Florida.

In her libel suit, Salazar claims that Kai Hernandez had actually imitated Salazar's voice, as a means to set her up for bank fraud. The ex-wife of the current Mets broadcaster "further accused Salazar of interfering with her marriage and having an affair with Flushing favorite Keith who is 37 years her senior," according to the Daily Mail.

The claim also notes that Salazar, a family friend and neighbor of Keith Hernandez, had looked up to the former Mets all-star as a "father-figure," and was "humiliated" by his ex-wife's accusations.

A spokesperson for Salazar's campaign, Michael Kinnucan, maintains that the candidate is completely innocent, and blamed the accusations on the couple's messy divorce and a fourth person that Kai Hernandez was seeing at the time. "Kai Hernandez's bizarre and fraudulent attempts to defame and victimize Julia were recognized as baseless by the authorities, who declined to file charges," he told Gothamist.

The spokesperson added that a judge awarded Salazar $20,000 for her libel claim, most of which went toward legal fees. The Daily Mail notes that the defamation case was set for trial in March of 2017, "but both sides settled at the last moment."

Less than a year later, Salazar announced that she was running to unseat State Senator Martin Dilan, an eight-term incumbent whose district covers much of North Brooklyn. A surge of progressive endorsements and positive press coverage followed—much of it in the wake of fellow DSA candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's upset victory over Rep. Joe Crowley.

But more recently, the campaign has been dogged by repeated inconsistencies in Salazar's statements about her past. As Gothamist first reported, she spent her junior year of college actively fighting to restrict abortion services at Columbia University, despite previously claiming to have "quickly" moved left upon arriving at school. Her also website implies that she graduated from Columbia, which she did not, the NY Times reports today.

Subsequent pieces in Tablet Magazine and City and State New York alleged, respectively, that her working-class immigrant Jewish background was "largely self-created" and "deployed..to gain maximum political advantage." While some questions regarding her identity have proved difficult to untangle, it does seem that Salazar's repeated statements about being born in Colombia are untrue.

Multiple media outlets have since spoken to her mother and brother, who say that Salazar was born to a middle-class family in Florida—in a home that, apparently, neighbored Keith Hernandez's townhouse.

Salazar's opponent, Senator Martin Dilan, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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