By Mark Hallum
State Assemblyman Brian Barnwell (D-Woodside) claims to be not be interested in the political side of his job in the legislature, but he landed a primary victory Thursday night against fellow Democrat Melissa Sklarz, a trans rights activist who had endorsements from city Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), among others.
With 88 percent of the precincts reporting, Barnwell tallied 65.8 percent of the votes with Sklarz at just 34.2 percent, according to unofficial results from NY1.
The freshman lawmaker took office after beating former state Assemblywoman Margaret Markey in what was then seen as a major upset for the Queens County Democratic Party, often referred to as “the Queens machine” under the leadership of U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), who suffered his own primary defeat in June to insurgent Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Sklarz aimed to bridge the gap between the liberal northern part of her district, which stretches from parts of Astoria down to Middle Village, and the more conservative southern section by campaigning on fairer property taxes for seniors, more reliable public transportation and better health care.
Barnwell said he hoped to make affordable housing less costly by adjusting the formula used to calculate area median income, which incorporates income levels throughout the region, as opposed to the zip code of the development, which he sees as a better indicator of financial standing.
“I have parts of Long Island City and I have parts of Astoria, so you see [gentrification] starting to creep in, and now the next big area the developers are trying to move into are Sunnyside and Woodside, and it’s my job to fight against that in my opinion,” Barnwell said in an August interview with TimesLedger Newspaper’s editorial staff. “We’re at a breaking point, and not just my district, where schools are overcrowded, subways are overcrowded, the buses are overcrowded, and [developers] are building high luxury condos. Where are these people going to go, where are these kids going to go to school?”
The Women’s Reproductive Health Act was something Sklarz championed on the campaign trail and said she believes that with the national political climate and in the face of the a controversial White House administration, it is imperative for New York state to codify Roe vs. Wade into law.
Criticized by Sklarz for voting against the Women’s Reproductive Health Act, Barnwell said he would prefer to vote for Roe v. Wade to be codified into state law exactly as the abortion measure is at the federal level.
With the primary victory in hand, Barnwell will look to defeat Republican Eric Butkiewicz in the Nov. 6 general election.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall