You are reading

Steven Raga to Replace Brian Barnwell on the Ballot for the 30th Assembly District Seat

Steven Raga (Photo: Courtesy of Steven Raga)

April 14, 2022 By Christian Murray (updated)

Assembly Member Brian Barnwell announced earlier this week that he would no longer be running for his Assembly District 30 seat—and a replacement has been made for him on the ballot.

Steven Raga, who unsuccessfully ran for city council last year and is currently the executive director of Woodside on the Move, will appear on the ballot in Barnwell’s place. He will run against one other candidate in the June 28 Democratic primary– Ramon Cando, a Democratic District leader who has strong ties to Hiram Monserrate

The pair will be vying for a seat that covers parts of Maspeth, Woodside, Middle Village, Sunnyside, Jackson Heights, East Elmhurst, Elmhurst and Rego Park.

Barnwell, who filed his petitions to get on the ballot earlier this month, announced via social media Tuesday that he was not seeking re-election. A committee to replace him—consisting of five people— met Wednesday night and selected Raga to take his spot on the ballot.

The committee consisted of Gregory Meeks, who leads the Queens County Democratic Party, along with Melissa Sklarz, Steven Raga, Patrick Martinez and Kathleen Nealon.

Sklarz, Raga, Martinez and Nealon are all listed as candidates running to be Democratic District leaders in District 30.

“We voted for Steven,” said Sklarz in an interview with the Queens Post Thursday. “He makes for an excellent choice,” noting his Filipino heritage will prove helpful in what is now an Asian-dominated seat following the redistricting.

The district was redrawn earlier this year to connect Queens’ Asian communities in parts of Elmhurst, East Elmhurst and Woodside’s “Little Manila’. The new district population is nearly 50 percent Asian and 19 percent white whereas the current D-30 population is about 27 percent Asian and 39 percent white.

District 30 underwent significant change following the redistricting. The map on the left is the district today, the map on the right is the new district (RedistrictingandYou.org)

Raga, who was Barnwell’s chief of staff for four years, has a long track record in government and the non-profit sector.

Prior to joining Woodside on the Move, he was the Northeast Regional Manager for Policy and Advocacy for the Susan G. Komen Foundation, where he oversaw healthcare legislation in 11 states.

He has been a member of Community Board 2 since 2016 and sits on the boards of Queens Pride and the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA). He is also the Founder of Pilipino American Unity for Progress (UniPro) which he started in Woodside in 2009.

Raga could not be reached for comment about his selection. However, when the news broke Tuesday that Barnwell was not running, he told the Queens Post that he was stunned.

“It has shocked a lot of us. It has come out of left field,” he said. “I hope everything is ok with him.”

Steven Raga representing Woodside on the Move at a recent rally in NYC (Photo: Woodside on the Move)

The appointment of a candidate via a vacancy committee is rare.

It requires a candidate to file the requisite number of signatures with the Board of Elections to get on the ballot and then file a “certificate of declination” within a week. If the “certificate of declination” deadline is missed, the candidate’s name appears on the ballot and a replacement is not permitted to be selected.

Candidates, when they file their signatures with the Board of Elections, state the names of the individuals who would be part of the vacancy committee to appoint a replacement in case they drop out.

The maneuver is criticized if it is invoked by an incumbent—and it is without good cause. Many people choose not to run for office when they know the incumbent seeks reelection, as opposed to the seat being vacant. Furthermore, it is too late for people to get into the race when the “declination” is filed.

Barnwell told the Queens Post Thursday that he decided to drop out because he was done playing politics. He said the decision was prompted by the budget last week when lawmakers decided not to make the illegal possession of a firearm bail eligible.

“The recent budget was the final straw for me,” Barnwell said. “We see all the gun problems and innocent people being killed around the city and country. We need to be strong on this issue.”

He said that it was unacceptable for Albany not to take a stronger stance when it comes to guns.

“What it boils down to is that people would rather play politics than solve the real problems we are facing,” Barnwell said.

Barnwell said his sudden announcement and his decision to file a “certificate of declination” was not about backroom deal making.

“I planned on running. I even spent money in campaign costs. But then the budget happened…and then basically the next day I said I wasn’t running.”

He said that he will not weigh in on the election to replace him. “I will be neutral,” noting that he did not endorse Raga when Raga ran for council last year.

Barnwell, who is an attorney and is religious, said that he will finish his term this year and has nothing lined up for the future. “No plans at the moment but perhaps practicing law and/or helping to spread the Gospel.”

Assembly Member Brian Barnwell (Photo: Assembly)

email the author: [email protected]

One Comment

Click for Comments 
Javier

No one affiliated with Hiram Monseratte will ever get my vote so looks like Steven Raga will be getting my vote.

Reply

Leave a Comment
Reply to this Comment

All comments are subject to moderation before being posted.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Recent News

Borough president hears from community members on budget needs throughout Queens

During a two-day public hearing on the mayor’s 2024 preliminary budget, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. listened to testimonies from 14 community board representatives, community stakeholders and members of the public on where the money should be spent in Queens. 

The public hearings were held both in-person and via Zoom on Monday, Jan. 30, and Tuesday, Jan. 31, at Queens Borough Hall. The testimonials will be used to develop the Queens Borough Board’s FY24 preliminary budget priorities in the coming weeks. 

‘He didn’t deserve to die’: Borough President Richards leads emotional candlelight vigil for Tyre Nichols

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards held a candlelight vigil for Tyre Nichols outside Queens Borough Hall Monday, Jan. 30 after Nichols’ death at the hands of police officers in Memphis, Tenn., made national headlines for the brutality in which the officers beat him.

Almost immediately after news broke about Nichols’ death, the Memphis police officers who beat him to death were fired and charged with murder. The police department released the body cam footage of the fatal beating on Jan. 27, but many people, including some at the vigil, have refused to watch it due to its extremely graphic nature.

Op-Ed: This Year’s State Budget Must Prioritize Climate, Jobs, and Justice for New York

Op-Ed, Jan. 30, By Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas

In a time of rampant economic inequality and environmental injustice, it is easy to feel defeated.  Here in Queens and across New York State, however, communities are organizing for a better future. New Yorkers from different backgrounds and with different lived experiences are proving that we can build community, organize, and create a future that reflects our shared values.

BP launches new advisory panel for youth to become civically engaged in the future of Queens

In an effort to get more young people involved in civics, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards has created a new advisory panel known as the Youth and Young Adult Council to introduce the “youngest and fiercest” community advocates to both community service and organization.

Members of the advisory body will advocate concerns through means of community engagement by participating in one of two cohorts. The first will be made up of high school representatives between the ages of 13 and 17, while the second cohort will be comprised of young adults between the ages of 18 and 25.

Raga sworn in as first-ever Filipino American elected to the state Legislature

More than 300 community members attended the historic inauguration of Assemblyman Steven Raga as the first Filipino American elected to office in New York state.

Many who attended the swearing-in event at the Queens Museum in Flushing Meadows Corona Park wore traditional and cultural attire to the event at the building that once housed the General Assembly of the newly formed United Nations from 1946 to 1950 until its current home in Manhattan became available for the world body.