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Photo by Michael Shain
State Assemblyman Brian Barnwell cruised to victory over Melissa Sklarz in the Democratic primary.
By Mark Hallum

State Assemblyman Brian Barnwell (D-Maspeth) solidified his position in Albany after defeating Melissa Sklarz in last week’s Democratic primary.

Barnwell’s political career began as an insurgent against the Queens political machine, winning a primary in 2016 in what was considered a big upset over long-time incumbent Margaret Markey.

Barnwell’s stance against engaging in the politics of being a legislator seems to have resonated with voters when he handily beat Sklarz, a transgender activist, by almost twice the number of votes, according to unofficial results from the city Board of Elections.

With the primary victory in hand, Barnwell will look to defeat Republican Eric Butkiewicz in the Nov. 6 general election.

Barnwell secured the win with 5,214 votes, while Sklarz received 2,902 votes, according to the Board of Elections.

“It is an honor that the constituents of the 30th Assembly District voted me to be their democratic nominee for state Assembly in November,” Barnwell said. “I never forget that I work for them, and I look forward to continue fighting for them to make New York more affordable for all.”

True to his style, there was no party celebrating his victory on election night. According to the legislator, he simply went back to his district office and worked.

During the campaign, 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 had discussed making 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 overall financial standing for individual communities.

“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?”

Sklarz threw criticism Barnwell’s way during the campaign by claiming he had voted against the Women’s Reproductive Health Act, believing that with the national political climate and in the face of the a controversial White House administration, it is critical for New York state to codify Roe v. Wade into law.

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.

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhallum@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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