Queens Assemblyman Barnwell ends re-election bid without explanation, committee to decide replacement candidate

Assemblyman Brian Barnwell decided to end his re-election bid but did not explain why. (QNS/File photo)

In keeping with his low-key style, Assemblyman Brian Barnwell quietly ended his re-election bid Tuesday in a simple two-sentence message on social media.

Barnwell made his decision known after he submitted his petition signatures to the Board of Elections last week to appear on the June 28 Democratic primary ballot.

“It is with sadness that I announce that I will not be seeking re-election to the NYS Assembly,” the lawmaker wrote on Twitter. “It has been a true honor to serve, and I will never forget that I owe everything to the kindness of the people who allowed me to serve as their representative.”

Barnwell did not respond to phone calls and emails requesting clarification, but his district office confirmed that he had decided to end his re-election bid, without providing any details.

The assemblyman grew up in the Boulevard Gardens Apartments in Woodside dreaming of a career in the military until he was diagnosed with scoliosis, or curvature of the spine. Three back surgeries and metal rods stabilizing his spine ended his thoughts of serving in the armed forces.

Barnwell celebrated his upset victory with supporters outside O’Neill’s in Maspeth in 2016. (Photo by Bill Parry)

“When I realized I couldn’t serve in the military because of my back, I said I’m going to be a lawyer and go into politics because that’s the best way I can serve the public,” Barnwell said during a 2016 interview.

Barnwell was elected to serve District 30, which comprises the neighborhoods of Maspeth, Middle Village, and parts of Astoria, Long Island City, Sunnyside and Woodside, where he was raised.

After stunning nine-term incumbent state Assemblywoman Margaret Markey in the 2016 Democratic primary, Barnwell claimed her seat in Albany with a convincing Election Night victory over Republican nominee Tony Nunziato. He had joined Nunziato at the nightly protests against the proposed homeless shelter at the Maspeth Holiday Inn Express.

Barnwell had spent much of the previous year attending community board and civic association meetings across the district. He adopted the mantra, “Nobody will outwork me,” while handing out his personal cellphone number to 10,000 potential voters in the district and knocking on thousands of doors.

Democratic District Leader Melissa Sklarz, a longtime neighbor of Barnwell’s in Woodside who mounted an unsuccessful challenge against him in 2018, will now play a role in replacing him on the June primary ballot.

“There is a committee to fill vacancies with five registered Democrats including myself, Steven Raga and our county chairman [Gregory Meeks,]” Sklarz said. “I assume we will review, meet and decide a county candidate for the upcoming June primary.”

She added that Barnwell’s decision was unexpected as they were coordinating nominating petitioning throughout the past four weeks. Currently, only one other Democrat, Ramon Cando, filed signatures to appear on the ballot in the June primary. Republican Sean Lally filed to appear on the ballot as well.