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Meet the Woodside Resident Challenging Longtime Incumbent for Assembly Seat

By Jeanmarie Evelly | September 9, 2016 8:02am | Updated on September 12, 2016 8:49am
 Brian Barnwell, 30, is challenging longtime Assemblywoman Margaret Markey in the state primary on Sept. 13.
Brian Barnwell, 30, is challenging longtime Assemblywoman Margaret Markey in the state primary on Sept. 13.
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QUEENS — An attorney and Woodside resident will face off against Assemblywoman Margaret Markey in the state primary on Tuesday, hoping to unseat the lawmaker from the post she's held for nearly two decades.

Brian Barnwell, a constitutional and criminal lawyer, said he was inspired to run for the 30th Assembly District — which includes Maspeth, Woodside and parts of Long Island City, Astoria, Sunnyside and Middle Village — because he thinks the area needs a more active voice.

"I kind of felt that we needed a better representative," he said, pointing to reports about Markey's absences during a previous legislative session.

"She's just not getting the job done."

Barnwell, who grew up in Woodside's Boulevard Gardens apartments, said he's long had an interest in public service, one he further cultivated while previously working for Councilman Costa Constantinides' office, where he helped organize special events.

"I always had an interest in community work and politics and helping people," he said.

"When I worked for Costa, I saw all the good work that he did, how many people we helped every day."

If elected, he said he would focus on creating more affordable housing as well as addressing quality-of-life issues like graffiti and illegal dumping, and would make it a point to be responsive to constituents' everyday problems.

"I've been giving out my cellphone numbers to voters," he said. "You should be able to have a conversation with your representative directly and have something taken care of and addressed."

Barnwell, 30, said he also wants to tackle ethics reform and curb corruption in Albany, lessening the influence of lobbyists and special interest groups.

"All the legislators are voting based on whatever the party leaders tell them, and that's an issue," the Democrat said.

"I'm going to vote what I think is right and do what I think is best."

His opponent Markey has represented the 30th Assembly District for nine terms, since she was first elected in 1998, and is a member of the Rules Committee and the Ways and Means Committee, according to her online biography.

In a statement, she pointed to her accomplishments over the years, including the most recent legislative session in which, she says, she pushed to lower taxes for the middle class, raise the minimum wage and fund transit improvements and senior centers.

"I have also worked hard to expand jobs for workers and benefits for their families as evidenced by my strong support in this race from major labor and professional unions," Markey said in a statement.

"Thanks to my seniority, I have also been able to deliver millions of dollars in benefits to senior centers, libraries, parks in our district as well as providing support year after year for local nonprofit civic and service organizations that deliver vital services to veterans, youth and social service organizations that help our neighbors in need."

Markey also faced an opponent during the primary in 2014 when she defeated challenger Dmytro Fedkowskyj by pulling in more than 75 percent of the vote.

The state and local primary election will take place Sept. 13.