By Kay-Ann Henry
Miami Gardens, FL
The smell of kettle-corn lingers in the air, while a ferris wheel rises high above the fairgoers. Steven Uccio, a Republican candidate for New Jersey’s 12th Congressional District, is at the Middlesex County Fair in East Brunswick, N.J., with two of his staffers. At the moment, he is speaking to the Princeton Summer Journal about his campaign.
Uccio seems cool and unfazed in a polo shirt and khaki pants. He greets student journalists generously, noting that he’s received few questions over the last four years from the local press. He welcomes questions. He makes eye contact. He seems like a pretty typical young guy.
But by the end of the press conference, it is clear that Uccio is anything but an ordinary candidate. He is a Republican candidate running in a Democratic district. There is a strong chance that he will lose, yet he seems optimistic.
Even though he’s running as a Republican candidate in this race, he was previously a Libertarian. He has had other political endeavors, running for State Legislator and Mercer County Freeholder in 2013 and 2014, respectively, as a Libertarian. Most of his policies still lean Libertarian. He believes that the government doesn’t need to meddle in citizens’ affairs, which he echoed several times during the press conference at the fair.
He expresses disdain for the fact that America has a two-party system. “The reality of the situation is in the U.S. and this county, if you’re independent, you won’t win,” he says. On the national level, GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump has parted ways with some of the Republican Party’s platform, and branched off on his own. Trump doesn’t fit the mold of the quintessential Republican candidate, and neither does Uccio—but for different reasons.
Uccio doesn’t necessarily like Trump: “Trump is a wild card,” he says, noting that sometimes the things the Republican presidential nominee says are “foolish.” Uccio disagrees with Trump on immigration, stating that he doesn’t think building a wall is ideal—a sentiment that the Republican presidential candidate seems especially passionate about.
But Uccio says he supports Trump anyway, and that he will definitely vote for him.
“I think a wild card like Donald Trump will get Congress moving,” he says.
People at the fair don’t seem to have heard about Uccio. An insurance representative, Ranique DeCibus, says she just found out about him and his campaign. “He seems like a nice guy, I just don’t know much about him or his policies,” she says. Several other residents echoed the same sentiment.
Uccio is faced with the overwhelming fact that the odds do not favor his campaign, along with other things that complicate his narrative as a candidate.
As the sun beat down on the county fair, Uccio continues talking to residents. A persistent and relatable candidate, maybe his libertarian politics will work in his favor. Or maybe there is no hope, and the race was lost before it even begun. Only time will tell what fate and the 12th Congressional District decide.