WESTFIELD, NJ — You may not have seen them in the national debates, but two Westfield High School seniors are legitimately running for President of the United States.
Anthony Pericolo, a candidate representing the Republican Party, got the idea to run when he discovered that, while a person must be 35 years old to serve as president, there are no age restrictions for running.
“When I finally went online to learn how to register, I was set on declaring my candidacy,” Pericolo said. “I hope to get my name out there. After all, I want to run for president again when I can actually serve.”
Fellow student Will Harmer heard about Pericolo’s run and decided to throw his hat in the ring, too, as a Socialist.
“My fellow presidential candidate, Republican Anthony Pericolo, declared in a group email to a club we are both involved in, the Informant,” Harmer said. “So I decided to declare and challenge him on his arch conservative views.”
The candidates participated in a formal debate in October at the Presbyterian Church in Westfield:
Pericolo said he believes in the demolition of welfare, prison reforms and security enhancement at our nation’s borders.
“If I could only do one thing as president, it would be to eliminate all forms of welfare,” Pericolo said. “I will also be tough on crime.”
And, he said, “We need to fix our borders and address national security. People come into this country and take from those who work. We also do not know who is coming in. I will rip up Obamacare and replace it with regulations, so people who do not have insurance won’t cost the honest American citizen a dime.”
Harmer, on the other hand, said he is deeply passionate about addressing and fixing what he referred to as the silent issue of poverty.
“When people talk about politics and the news, there is one word that is rarely brought up: poverty,” Harmer said. “In the United States, right at this very moment, there are nearly 50 million people living in poverty. Right now, at this very moment, four percent of American children, over a million kids, live on less than two dollars a day. That is appalling, and if anything is a crime, a blight upon our nation, it is that fact.”
According to Pericolo, the October debate drew a large and enthusiastic crowd.
“I think I did well,” Pericolo said. “I presented logical solutions to pressing issues in our country. I was strongest with welfare issues, as I made my economic recovery plan clear. I stood firm with the American Dream.”
But he also thought that his positions worked against him.
“My greatest strength was my weakness,” Pericolo said. “I simply cannot compete against a ‘free stuff’ candidate.”
Harmer said the moment in which he took the most pride was his defense of Planned Parenthood, which he called “a very good public institution that provides healthcare for those who need it.”
In addition to the debate, Pericolo has been campaigning fervently.
“I had campaign meetings, I made posters and put them through town and I talk about my candidacy a lot. I use YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to articulate my views. I sent emails to various levels of the Republican Party announcing my candidacy, but I need to pay to advertise my campaign in CPAC. I am working on making an official campaign website. I conducted an interview that aired across several radio stations and is now available on YouTube. The campaign has cost me little other than a few supplies, which I paid for.”
Harmer has not campaigned to the extent that Pericolo has, though he does plan to put an advertisement in the Westfield High School newspaper, Hi’s Eye. Like Pericolo, Harmer is paying for all campaign costs himself.
“I ain't bought,” Harmer said. “That is for sure.”
Looking into the future, Harmer is considering a career in economics. But for Pericolo, his initial run for the White House is just the beginning.
“I will absolutely not disappear in the political world,” Pericolo said. “Politics is a big part of my life, and that is why I want to major in poli sci. It is really fun, as well. The political world is ever-changing and always in need of fresh new ideas. I will volunteer for campaigns throughout college, and work with both partisan and nonpartisan groups to establish contacts. After college, I plan to run for House of Representatives and the Senate before I pursue the Oval Office again. I know I have the mindset and the ambition necessary to restore the misguided America.”
Sarah Boyle is a student at Westfield High School participating in a journalism program with TAP into Westfield.