Eric Butkiewicz, a newcomer to the Queens political scene, will run on the Republican, Conservative and Reform party lines in the general election. He will face off against first-term Assemblyman Brian Barnwell, the Democratic nominee.
Butkiewicz is unlike most candidates running for office. He’s 22 years old, and is currently studying at St. John’s University Law School.
But despite his young age and relative inexperience in politics, he hopes to garner enough votes represent Maspeth, Middle Village and Woodside in Albany.
“I want to civically represent the community and advocate for the neighborhood,” he said.
Butkiewicz grew up in Middle Village and Maspeth. He attended St. Stanislaus Kostka School in Maspeth and Monsignor McClancy Memorial High School in East Elmhurst.
His next stop was Baruch College, where he studied government administration and public policy.
Though he’s still in law school, Butkiewicz has been involved with local civic groups and the Queens Republican Party. He said he was approached to run for office by community leaders.
Initially, he wanted to run for State Senate in District 15, which is currently represented by Democrat Joseph Addabbo. But the Queens GOP’s preferred candidate was Tom Sullivan, who edged out lawyer Slawomir Platta for the nomination.
Butkiewicz said a three-way primary “wasn’t ideal for anyone,” so he backed out and decided to run for Assembly in the 30th District instead.
Running in his first campaign ever –– which he described as “trial by fire, in a way” –– Butkiewicz said he has received advice from local Republican district leaders.
“The Republican Party has been helpful and supportive,” he said. “Whatever I need, they’re just a phone call away.”
The Republican nominee, however, is not running a traditional campaign. His strategy is more grassroots and reliant on social media.
Butkiewicz has been posting steadily on neighborhood Facebook groups, which act as forums where residents share their concerns and ideas, and attending civic and community events.
“A lot of it is just getting out there and meeting people,” he said. “People just want to see you and talk to you.”
His campaign slogan is “Putting Our Communities First,” indicating a focus on preserving quality of life. As an assemblyman, Butkiewicz said he would push for faster modernization and more accountability from the MTA.
He also wants to find a legislative solution to maintain the single-family neighborhood character of communities like Maspeth and Middle Village, and stand against overdevelopment.
On the specialized high schools admissions debate, Butkiewicz stands firmly in favor of keeping the test. He believes the problem of educational inequality should be tackled at the roots in grammar schools.
“The solution proposed is wrong and misguided,” he said, referring to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to reform the admissions process. “The solution is to go to grammar schools and teach them better.”
He is also campaigning against homeless shelters, such as the ones previously proposed for Maspeth and Glendale, and to keep Rikers Island open, rather than opening community jails.
Butkiewicz, though just 22, said he doesn’t want to be a career politician. One local elected official he wants to emulate is Councilman Robert Holden, whom he said has shown the ability to work with both sides of the political aisle.
“He’s putting politics aside to focus on working for the community,” he said.
The Republican nominee hypothesized that to win the election, he would need close to 70 percent of the vote in Middle Village, 50 percent in Maspeth and 30 percent of Woodside.
That will be a tall task against Barnwell, who beat longtime incumbent Marge Markey two years ago with a whopping 63 percent of the vote.
Barnwell, who lives in the Boulevard Gardens complex in Woodside, topped Markey by a 778-275 margin in Maspeth and Middle Village in 2016.
But Butkiewicz, who would be the youngest member of the State Legislature, is ready for the job.
“I think I’m more than capable of handling it,” he said.