Incumbent Assemblywoman Markey loses Democratic primary in a stunning upset

Nine-term incumbent Assemblywoman Margaret Markey (at left) lost Tuesday's Democratic primary to Woodside attorney Brian Barnwell.
File photos

This might be one of the biggest political upsets Queens has ever seen.

Upstart Brian Barnwell defeated nine-term incumbent Assemblywoman Margaret Markey in Tuesday’s Democratic primary for the 30th Assembly District seat.


WNYC called the race for Barnwell at about 9:25 p.m. Tuesday night. Turnout was extremely low, but Barnwell got 63.8 percent of the vote (1,622) to Markey’s 36.2 percent (921), with all of the precincts reporting.

“It’s wasn’t just me at all, by any means. It was all you guys, seriously. I can only do so much,” Barnwell told supporters in his victory speech. “Everyone in here gave their time and effort to help out. … Everyone went the extra mile in this room.”

Incumbents are normally a shoe-in to win re-election in a primary, but the tide turned against Markey last month amid the ongoing debate over a proposed homeless shelter in Maspeth, in the heart of her district. Markey took flack from residents for failing to show up at a public meeting and a protest over the shelter, although she expressed opposition to the plan in statements that her office issued.

Things came to a head at an Aug. 31 Community Board 5 public hearing on the shelter proposal, when Markey was roundly jeered by the attendees and cut her speech short.

Barnwell, for his part, attended meetings over the proposed shelter and expressed vehement opposition to the plan. He also visited nightly rallies held outside the Holiday Inn Express where the facility is slated to be located. Last week, the hotel’s owner stated he was no longer supportive of the idea.

The 30-year-old Barnwell, a Woodside attorney, is slated to face Republican Tony Nunziato (who was seen congratulating Barnwell at the candidate’s victory party) in the Nov. 8 general election. The 30th Assembly District covers all or parts of Astoria, Long Island City, Maspeth, Middle Village and Woodside.

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