Councilman backs challenger for 16 hours
Nov 07, 2018 | 4343 views | 0 0 comments | 458 458 recommendations | email to a friend | print
We guess a late endorsement is better than no endorsement at all.

In case you missed it, there is an Assembly race in the 30th District of Queens, which includes the neighborhoods of Middle Village, Maspeth, Woodside and parts of Astoria, Long Island City and Sunnyside.

The seat is currently held by Brian Barnwell, a one-term assembly member who in 2016 unseated longtime incumbent Marge Markey, who held the seat since 1999.

He is being challenged by Eric Butkiewicz, a 22-year-old first-time candidate and St. John's Law School student who is running on the Republican, Conservative and Reform party lines.

And in case you also missed it, which you most certainly did, on Monday afternoon - or about 16 hours before the polls open - Butkiewicz picked up his first real endorsement when Councilman Bob Holden announced he was backing him over Barnwell.

“Eric Butkiewicz is an amazing young person with a common sense approach to government,” Holden said in a statement. “He will be an outstanding assemblyman.”

Wow, nothing like waiting until the last minute! A little too late to print up some “Endorsed by Councilman Bob Holden” palm cards or mailers. Let's hope the news spread fast overnight!

But looking closer at the shared history of Barnwell and Holden might shed some light on why the councilman waited so long to publicly support Butkiewicz..

Barnwell was able to unseat Markey thanks in large part to support from Middle Village and Maspeth and the constant hammering of Markey by the Juniper Park Civic Association, which Holden led for decades, over her lack of advocacy on behalf of the community in stopping a proposed homeless shelter.

Tensions were running high the summer before the primary, and when the dust settled it was voters in Middle Village and Maspeth that were responsible for sending Barnwell to Albany.

In election districts south of the LIE – or essentially Middle Village for all intents and purposes – Barnwell got 77 percent of the vote. In election districts between the LIE and BQE – or basically Maspeth – Barnwell received 69 percent of the vote.

In election districts north of the BQE – the Woodside neighborhood where Barnwell has actually lived nearly his entire life – the vote was split almost 50/50.

So Barnwell and Holden enjoyed a close relationship that paid off in the end for both: Holden got Markey out and Barnwell got his Assembly seat.

And since Barnwell has been open about the fact that he doesn't care if political colleagues endorse his opponents – both councilmen Jimmy Van Bramer and Danny Dromm did it in the primary – maybe Holden figured he could get by with lukewarm endorsement without rocking the boat too much.

And then there's the tangled path that led Holden to the City Council. A registered Democrat, Holden was trounced in last year's Democratic Primary by then-councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley. But Holden appealed to the Queens County Republican Party, who apparently couldn't find a single worthy registered Republican to run, and got an exemption to give the party line to Holden.

Holden ended up winning the General Election by a slim margin of 137 votes, and then entered the City Council as the Democrat he always was to begin with.

So maybe Holden felt like he owed one to the Republican Party and endorsed their candidate, but agreed to do it at a time when it would be too late to actually influence voters or have any real impact on the election so as not to upset Barnwell, which is apparently impossible.

Or maybe the truth is way simpler: flattery will get you everywhere.

Our editorial board sat down with Butkiewicz last month, and one of the questions he was asked was what local politician past or present he looks up to or wants to style himself after, and he immediately chose Holden. It wasn't the first time he brought up the councilman's name during the interview.

Now, if it were us and we were running, we might have chosen someone who is actually a Republican, and maybe even tried to impress the editorial board with our knowledge of local politics, despite our young age.

Maybe toss out the name of either former state senator Serf Maltese or Frank Padavan, two longtime Republicans from Queens who served up in Albany with admirable records. Hell, even just throw out the name of Bob Turner, the former congressman who shocked the political world when he won a seat that Republicans had never held.

But instead he chose Holden, who doesn't even have a year of political experience under his belt.

So maybe Holden felt like it was up to him to return the favor and say some nice things about Butkiewicz for a change. Notice he didn't say Butkiewicz would be “an outstanding assemblyman” in the 30th District!
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