Steven Uccio: red candidate in a blue state

By Mirna Rodriguez and Xuan Truong
Mission, TX and Springfield, MA

The carnival played out in the distance underneath last Saturday afternoon’s baking sun. The sunlight perfectly lit up a sign that read Middlesex County. Laughter and screams rang out from the twisting rides, drowning out a man’s demure voice as he stood in a field. Face clean shaven and hair neatly cut, he looked down at his pin, the sun blaring against the name: Steven Uccio.

Behind him were two other men in bright red shirts with large, bolded letters saying “Uccio For Congress: It’s Our Time.” Beyond the three were a crowd of young journalists, with pink umbrellas and notebooks on their laps, awaiting his answers.

Uccio is running for Congress this November against Bonnie Watson Coleman, the Democratic nominee and incumbent for New Jersey’s 12th Congressional District. In this race, he is the Republican nominee, but he is new to the party. In fact, he was a former Libertarian but switched to the Republican Party, he said, because “running as a Republican is the best chance of winning.”

However, despite the party switch, Uccio told us that the new Steven Uccio is no different from the old. “Even though I changed parties, my policies stayed the same,” he said in a calm voice, adding, “I’ve always been consistent.”

As we hurled questions about his political past and his ideological leanings, Uccio remained unwavering. “I was pro-gay marriage before it was legalized,” he said. “I was pro-marijuana before it.”

Upon the mention of marijuana, Uccio became passionately animated about the issue, defending his desire to “decriminalize it.” He criticized the war on drugs and argued for rehabilitating addicts instead of incarcerating them.

Whether these stances can win over voters remains to be seen. The district has been predominantly Democratic in the past, and running against Watson Coleman—who is seeking re-election after her first term as congresswoman—makes him the underdog in this race. However, Uccio seems unfazed by Watson Coleman and vehemently described her as “incompetent.”

Asked about fellow Republican Donald Trump, Uccio described him as “a bit of a wild card.” “I think he’s endearing in what he says,” Uccio explained. But, he continued with a harsher tone, “That’s a double-edged sword. I think sometimes he’s foolish. He needs to censor himself.”

He also noted that he thought Trump could “get Congress moving.” A Trump presidency is “not the worst thing,” he said, suggesting that a Clinton presidency would be truly terrible. Yet on immigration, he said, Trump’s wall proposal is “not very practical” and “is just a symbol.”

Later, in front of his booth at the county fair, he said, “I am not a rubber stamp for Donald Trump.” Behind him, the sun continued to shine upon merchandise laid on a red table, including buttons that said, “Make America Great Again: Donald Trump.”

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