Barnwell to get primary challenge from activist Melissa Sklarz

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Melissa Sklarz, who is challenging freshman state Assemblyman Brian Barnwell (D-Maspeth) in the September Democratic Primary, has gathered endorsements from two city officials July 27.

Sklarz, a transgender woman and trans rights activist, received endorsements from City Councilmen Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) and Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) in her quest to bring her fight for the LGTBQ community to Albany.

“To have the support of such incredible advocates for Queens is humbling,” Sklarz said. “Council members Dromm and Van Bramer exemplify what it means to be public servants. Their support is invaluable to this campaign. I look forward to working as their counterparts in the Assembly to fight for our constituents. In the meantime, I look forward to continuing to get our message out through grassroots efforts and adding more volunteers and voters to our team who are excited about my campaign’s mission to drive real change in Albany.”

Having grown up in Hicksville, L.I., Sklarz battled homelessness and substance abuse in her early years, but graduated from SUNY Buffalo with a degree in political science and became an activist after being fired from a job she had been at for eight years upon starting hormone therapy.

After being in Queens for 12 years, she hopes to help pass progressive legislation such as the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, which has not passed in the GOP majority state Senate.

“I am proud to endorse Melissa Sklarz for state Assembly because it’s clear she has a vision for change and the experience needed to get results up in Albany,” Dromm said. “As someone who ran an insurgent campaign for City Council in 2009, with the help of people like Melissa, I know that she will go to Albany ready to challenge authority and stand up for what is right.”

Sklarz has served as the president of the Stonewall Democratic Club and was delegate for the U.S. Electoral College during the 2016 Democratic National Convention. In 2004, she became the first transgender delegate elected to the Democratic National Committee and served on the credentials committee.

“Queens values are under attack and we need progressive leaders in Albany who are ready to stand up and protect the rights of all New Yorkers,” Van Bramer said. “Over the years, Melissa has exhibited a rare ability to build broad-based coalitions to solve issues. I know she will provide strong leadership and be an outspoken voice for affordable housing, public transportation, education, women, immigrants, and the LGBTQ community.”

The primary will be Sept. 13 and Eric Butkiewicz is running as the Republican nominee in the November general election.

Barnwell was elected to the western Queens office after unseating then-state Assemblywoman Margaret Markey in the 2016 Democratic primary and later defeating Republican nominee Tony Nunziato in the general.

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

Updated 2:33 pm, August 15, 2018
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