‘There were a host of issues’: Barnwell explains decision to drop re-election bid for Assembly

Assemblyman Brian Barnwell decided to end his re-election bid and explained his reasons why. (QNS/File photo)

Assemblyman Brian Barnwell spoke with QNS to shed some light on the issues that led him to decide to end his re-election campaign Tuesday, April 14.

The 36-year-old — who represents District 30, which comprises the neighborhoods of Maspeth, Middle Village and parts of Astoria, Long Island City, Sunnyside and Woodside — told QNS that he reached the breaking point after the $220 billion New York state budget was finalized over the weekend.

“There were a host of issues, but guns were the problem for me,” Barnwell said. “You have people dying and getting shot in the street. I wanted to get illegal possession of a firearm to be considered for bail, not mandate but at least considered. Nope. The gun stuff was the last straw for me.”

Barnwell also said he is frustrated with the inaction by city agencies.

“I handle all of my constituent complaints and city agencies are just not doing their job,” Barnwell said. “Not resolving serious complaints like no heat, no hot water, mold, etc. The Department of Buildings not resolving illegal conversions and then they wonder why bad things happen. It all goes back to people playing politics instead of solving the issue and you know me — I don’t like playing politics.”

Democratic District Leader Melissa Sklarz, a longtime neighbor of Barnwell’s in Woodside who mounted an unsuccessful challenge against him in 2018, was on a committee that included Queens County Democratic chairman Gregory Meeks that selected Steven Raga to replace Barnwell on the ballot.

“The committee on filling vacancies selected Steven Raga as the best choice for Queens County Democrats in the 30th AD in the June primary,” Sklarz said.

Raga is the current executive director of Woodside on the Move who served as Barnwell’s chief of staff for four years.

“I had nothing to do with that whatsoever; like I said, I don’t like playing politics,” Barnwell said. “Steven ran for City Council last year and I didn’t endorse him. I guess they picked him but it has nothing to do with me.”

Barnwell 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 chose public service instead stunning nine-term incumbent state Assemblywoman Margaret Markey in the 2016 Democratic primary before claiming the seat in a convincing win over Republican nominee Tony Nunziato, the current leader of the Queens GOP.

He will finish out his current term at the end of the year and is undecided about what comes next.

”I’m a lawyer and I could return to practice, but I’m also a Christian so I might become a preacher,” Barnwell said. “I already hear people saying, ‘Oh, he’s got a corporate job lined up or maybe he’s going to be selected to be lieutenant governor,’ and I’m like, I put thousands into my re-election campaign and then the budget came down, and I just said to myself, I can’t. I’m done.”