Peter Barnes III of Edison, a judge and former state senator, has died at the age of 64 following a short illness.
“He was a good family man and a good guy,” said his successor, state Senator Pat Diegnan of South Plainfield. “He will be missed. He was a unique and special guy.”
Mr. Barnes served in the General Assembly from 2007 to 2014, and in the state senate from 2014 to 2016, when he became a New Jersey Superior Court Judge.
A graduate of Edison’s public schools and graduate of Gettysburg College and the Widener University School of Law, the former Edison councilman was known in Trenton as an astute policy wonk and meticulous member of every committee on which he served. He was also a good storyteller who maintained an active social calendar with friends.
A Democrat, he won the 18th District senate seat in a narrow, battleground election the same year that his predecessor, Senator Barbara Buono, lost to incumbent Republican Governor Chris Christie in a landslide.
Mr. Barnes was the son of the late Peter Barnes II, a career FBI man and Assemblyman nominated by Jon Corzine to sit on the State Parole Board. The elder Mr. Barnes also served as chairman of the Middlesex County Democratic Committee.
“Peter Barnes III proudly continued his family’s legacy of service – a legacy which began with his father, the legendary FBI agent and longtime Assemblyman for whom we was named,” Governor Phil Murphy said in a statement. “As a member of both the Senate and Assembly, and on the Edison Council before, Pete garnered a reputation as a detail-driven lawmaker who put the need for good policy before the desire for a quick headline. A workhorse, not a showhorse. The things that made him a good legislator and beloved colleague also made him a model judge in our Superior Courts for the past nearly five years.
“He was, simply put, a good man who wanted to see good things come from his work. He could find the light in any situation, with a tremendous talent for storytelling – a Barnes family trait,” the governor added. “Tammy and I are heartbroken for his wife, Katie, and their three children. We are also keeping his mom, Barbara, in our prayers today, along with all who knew Pete and those who served alongside him. He has been taken from us all far too soon.”
Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) grieved the loss of his friend and senate colleague.
“I am terribly saddened at the passing of Peter Barnes,” said the senate president. “He was a truly honorable man who gained the respect and admiration of every life he touched in a lifetime of service to others and to the institutions of government that serve those in need. From his hometown of Edison, to the legislative chambers of the Senate and Assembly, and the halls of justice, Peter distinguished himself with his intelligence, compassion and humility.
“He was the sponsor of legislation creating the two percent property tax cap, and I know he was particularly proud of his bill creating the Dismal Swamp Preservation Commission to save a thousand acres in Metuchen, South Plainfield and his beloved Edison. He fought for an increase in the minimum wage, for a law to establish a task force to reduce sexual assaults on college campuses and for legislation to require substance abuse recovery housing, among other notable issues.
“Peter advanced the legacy of the Barnes family he was devoted to and who loved him. It was a natural progression when he succeeded his father in the Assembly. I had the good fortune to be Peter’s colleague and friend when he became a Senator,” Sweeney added. “I extend my sincere condolences to his wife Katie, mother Barbara, two sons Jack and Kenny, daughter Megan, and the entire Barnes family during this time of grief. We share in their loss.”
Said North Brunswick Democrat Marion G. Costanza:
“One of our dearest friends the Honorable Peter Barnes, III passed away last night after a short illness. Tears are flowing this morning. May this giant of a man-a giant in so many ways- Rest In Peace. Our thoughts and much love are with Katie and children, his mom Barbara and all the family.”