Feb. 20, 2018 By Nathaly Pesantez
Assemblymember Brian Barnwell is facing a challenger for his seat in Albany.
Melissa Sklarz, a transgender advocate who has worked through a variety of roles, officially announced today that she will be running to represent the 30th Assembly District, which covers parts of Sunnyside, Woodside, Long Island City, and Maspeth.
Her run, partly inspired by the 2016 presidential election, will focus on women’s reproductive health, fixing the city’s transit system, and eradicating homelessness. She will run against Barnwell in the Democrat primary, tentatively scheduled for Sept. 11.
“After the 2016 election, I realized this is no time to be on the sidelines,” Sklarz said. “With our transportation network in crisis, the assault on New Yorkers with the Trump budget that slashes billions in federal assistance to vital programs, and women still lacking proper representation, I am determined to make sure all voices are heard in Albany.”
Sklarz, who currently serves as the director of development at the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, would become the first transgender Assembly member if elected.
Sklarz’s advocacy work for New York dates back decades, with a historic 1999 victory that landed her a post as a judicial delegate for Manhattan’s 66th Assembly District while making her the first trans person elected to any office in New York state. With a move to her Boulevard Gardens home in Woodside over 11 years ago, Sklarz once again ran for a judicial delegate post for her new neighborhood—the 30th Assembly District.
Her involvement in politics and advocacy extends to her position as board co-chair of the Empire State Pride Agenda, a now disbanded non-profit that advocated for LGBT rights, and as a member of the NYPD’s LGBT advisory committee.
Sklarz, who describes herself as a progressive, is also a member of the U.S. Electoral College.
Campaign finance data for Sklarz is not yet available on the state board of elections website.
Barnwell, who won the assembly district seat in 2016 after a stunning victory against incumbent Margaret Markey, said on Facebook that he will need help with fundraising for the upcoming primary.
“I am not a fan of fundraising for campaigns in politics. It is the part I hate the most,” Barnwell wrote. “However, we will definitely have a primary opponent this upcoming election who will raise massive sums.”