Superior Court Judge Peter J. Barnes III, a former state senator and assemblyman from Edison, died last night. He was 64.
He began his political career in 1996, winning a race for the Edison Township Council. He spent 11 years on the governing body and was a former council president.
He had won a 2007 special election convention to replace his father, Assemblyman Peter J. Barnes, Jr., after his appointment to the New Jersey State Parole Board.
His three victories for State Assembly in the Middlesex County-based 18th district were by wide margins.
After Barbara Buono gave up her State Senate seat to run for governor in 2013, Barnes won the open Senate seat. He defeated Republican David Stahl, the mayor of East Brunswick who had switched parties, by 1,879 votes, 52%-48%.
In April 2016, he resigned from the Senate following his nomination and confirmation to the Superior Court.
Barnes served as chairman of the Edison Housing Authority, and as chairman of the finance board and public safety and insurance commissions.
He was a former president of the Middlesex County Bar Association.
In the Senate, Barnes advocated for an increase in the minimum wage and for a law that would establish a task force to reduce the occurrences of sexual assaults on college campuses. With State Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-Woodbridge), Barnes introduced legislation to require substance abuse recovery housing.
Barnes had pushed for reforms in the Edison Police Department after allegations of misconduct. He introduced legislation that would move the department’s internal affairs division to the state attorney general’s office.
In April 2016, Barnes’ nomination to the bench was moved expeditiously through the Senate to position him to serve a full ten years as a judge. He took office one day before his 60th birthday; New Jersey judges have a mandatory retirement age of 70.
Barnes is survived by his wife, Katie, three children, two sisters, and his mother, Barbara. His father died in 2018, and his brother, former Hunterdon County Prosecutor Patrick Barnes, died of cancer last September at age 63.