Steven J. Uccio is the Republican Congressional candidate for the 12th District of New Jersey. Formerly a Libertarian who has run for County and Statewide public office, Steven became a Republican over a year ago. He is making his first foray into politics at the Federal level. As Election Day gets closer, Steven spoke with Politisite to answer some questions and reveal some glimpses at a different kind of Republican who is here to stay.
Jennifer: Why did you decide to run for Congress in a district with a very high Democrat to Republican ratio?
It’s going to be tough. There’s no doubt about it, but doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try and I think my odds are looking better as we go into the last week of the election.
Steven: I wouldn’t look at it that way. I’m still saying the same things. I’m for small and limited government, ensuring people’s rights, keeping taxes low, and government out of your business. The one thing I will note about Libertarians is that they ask for too much too quickly. Progressives have asked for things inch by inch and have gotten most of them over the last 100 years, where Libertarians ask for things mile by mile and generally don’t get anything. So I’m saying the same things, but just taking a more gradual and moderate approach to move us in the right direction.
Steven: If we repeal the federal gas tax then states can seamlessly increase their fuel tax and take more responsibility for their own roads. I think it will be more efficient that way because it seems like we’re giving money to the federal government and then asking for it back. I think we can cut out the middle man. Maybe the states could even lower the overall fuel taxes slightly.
The reason I proposed that law was because New Jersey has raised their gas tax so high that I felt we could cut the federal tax completely and force New Jersey to make due with the money they’re getting. New Jersey’s roads cost ten times the national average and it’s completely unacceptable.
Steven: That’s an interesting question, but I don’t think it will be an issue. I work in an industrial area and I routinely see Fed Ex tractors carry not only one trailer, but often carry two trailers right behind each other. The total weight of a tractor and two fully loaded trailers should be around the same as a tank. It’s something we can look into, but I don’t think it will be a problem.
Jennifer: As part of your platform, you are against the criminalization of homelessness. This position may not necessarily be popular in urban areas where local residents have to deal with the increased crime, panhandling, vacant building squatting and other social disruptions that homeless people can bring. In many ways, these are primarily urban problems which are also created by suburban towns pushing out the homeless from their areas. How do you think a balance can be worked out for everyone – urban/suburban, homeless/government?
Steven: My biggest concern was make sure that being homeless itself was not a crime. Certain cities and towns have banned sleeping in cars and made it illegal to feed the homeless. Those are the kinds of laws I don’t want. Any other crime that hurts someone else should be enforced. Any theft of property or assault should treated like any other crime. Squatting would be trespassing on someone’s property and should be illegal.
Jennifer: You are for the legalization of marijuana, which is another non-Republican position. While this idea may be very popular out west, it hasn’t taken root in the northeastern United States. Many people are concerned about second-hand exposure to marijuana themselves and also that of children, particularly near schools. How would you legislate regarding marijuana legalization so as to protect adults and children from unwanted second-hand exposure?
Steven: The easiest thing would probably be just to treat marijuana the same way as we treat alcohol. You shouldn’t be allowed to smoke it while driving, it shouldn’t really be done in public, and be for individuals over 21 years old. I think our alcohol laws could be applied to marijuana very easily.
Jennifer: On Marriage Equality or “Gay Marriage”, you seem to take a pro-marriage position but also allow for religious liberty regarding churches being required to marry or recognize marriages. Please explain your view on this contentious issue.
Steven: There is a very important distinction to make. State governments are in charge of marriage. That is a government function. As such, the states must comply with the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment. They must marry any two people of age or that would be government discrimination.
Now, religious groups are obviously not the government. They are private. I make a distinction between being governmentally married by law and being religiously married by a church. I would like religions to marry everyone, but I don’t think I should force them to do that. Religious groups, like any group, have their own rules and they can do what they want.
Steven: For me, marriage equality seemed so cut and dry. Fourteenth Amendment, equal protection clause, done. A lot of these LGBT issues we see today seem a lot more complicated and people are asking government to get more involved in people’s lives. I’m very cautious about that. How much of what a business (or person) does do you want dictated by the federal government?
I’ll look into it, I’ll hear the arguments, and I will see what can be done to ensure everyone’s rights. I would also say to not underestimate public opinion. Maybe this is a New Jersey thing, but people will not tolerate discrimination here. I would argue public opinion can be just as powerful to make a business think twice about something than any law.
Steven: I don’t want anyone to have an abortion. I’d simply prefer that you don’t. At the same I think we need to acknowledge the fact that whenever we’ve banned something as a country, it has never worked. At times in our history, we have banned alcohol and certain drugs. Those have been huge failures. I think the same thing would happen with abortion. It would just be pushed underground.
What I would encourage is not to stop people from having an abortion, but encourage them to have their baby. Do that through things like adoption support and early parental assistance. An non-profit organization called “Rise” in Hightstown, NJ does a phenomenal job with parental assistance.
I know this is a very contentious issue, but I think there is some room to bring groups together and I think I’m the person to do that.
Jennifer: Win or lose – what does the future hold for Steven Uccio?
Steven: As we get closer and closer to the general election, I am feeling more optimistic. The presidential election will undoubtedly affect my results and Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers are dropping as her latest scandal comes out. I’m also doing my job and making the case that I’m the best candidate. I’m hopeful that everything might come together and result in a win. At that point it’s off to Washington for me and hopefully, I [can] start causing trouble over there.
If I lose, I’m not sure what I might do. If it’s very close I might run for something else. I do enjoy running for political office, but at the same time I’ve been away from my family a lot. My son’s 2 1/2 years old and maybe I should be spending more time with him. He’s pretty cute, so no one seems to mind when I bring him along. Last week he was playing catch with the Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno.
I suppose it all depends on how well I do this year.