It’s unusual for the winner of a primary to be congratulated by their opponent in the general election to come, but that’s what happened to Brian Barnwell.
The political newcomer and Woodside native handily defeated nine-term incumbent Margaret Markey in the Sept. 13 Democratic primary, advancing him to a Nov. 8 election showdown with the Republican candidate, Maspeth businessman Tony Nunziato.
But the two candidates are closer to friends than rivals, as demonstrated at Barnwell’s primary victory party, where Nunziato was there to congratulate him. Both candidates had also been standing shoulder-to-shoulder with not only each other, but the Maspeth community, in their fight against the proposed homeless shelter at the Holiday Inn Express on 55th Road.
They have been present at the nightly rallies outside of the hotel, they stood up to Human Resources Administration (HRA) commissioner, Steven Banks, at two public hearings about the shelter, and marched five miles throughout Maspeth to protest the shelter.
Most recently, the two opponents were seen together at the Juniper Park Civic Association (JPCA) meeting at Our Lady of Hope School in Middle Village on Thursday, Sept. 22, where they said that will work together and run clean campaigns.
“Brian Barnwell and Tony Nunziato are running in the fall, Nov. 8 is the election, and I’m considering that, we all should consider it, a win-win,” said Robert Holden, president of JPCA. “Whoever you vote for, we’re going to win.”
Barnwell took the mic and thanked those in attendance for showing up to the polls and helping him defeat Markey earlier in the month. He vowed to continue to help the community, win or lose, come November.
“It’s funny because everyone in the papers are saying, ‘What’s going on with you, you’re hugging and you and him are shaking hands,’” Barnwell said. “Yeah, because he’s a nice guy, he’s been friendly to me. And we are going to work together, win or lose, and he’ll say the same thing.”
Nunziato said that it is a “make or break” time for the community, and that he and Barnwell will do their best to make sure their constituents’ voices and concerns are heard.
“We’re working to make sure we’re representing the neighborhood,” Nunziato said. “We have too many people standing up and saying we have a dysfunctional government right now. Everything is bad. And they’re right … they haven’t been representing us up in Albany.”
Whichever candidate wins in November, it will be a new start for the communities the winner will represent, which include all or parts of Astoria, Long Island City, Maspeth, Middle Village, Sunnyside and Woodside.