Recent national election cycles have proven that conservatives have a big problem recognizing the difference between candidates who adroitly pander and those who are truly dedicated to Constitutional leadership. But in regions of the country where liberal policy triumphs, knowing the difference is key to restoring the voice of the robust but underrepresented conservative populations that exist outside of leftist power centers.
Joe Visconti, 57, a candidate in the 2014 Connecticut gubernatorial race, believes that his State is the perfect place to demonstrate on the national stage the difference electing a true Constitutional conservative can make in areas long-dominated by misguided liberal leadership.
“What happens in Connecticut gets exported everywhere in America,” Visconti said in an interview with Personal Liberty. “So the line in the sand is in Connecticut.”
Visconti, who lives just miles from the State capitol in Hartford, is no stranger to Connecticut’s liberal politics.
Between 2007 and 2009 Visconti served as a council member in West Hartford, a town he once described as “the liberal capital of the world.” It was there that the gubernatorial candidate said he learned to recognize ways in which he could work with Democrats to further his conservative goals instead of taking a combative approach that would get him shut out of the conversation.
During the 2008 election for Connecticut’s heavily Democratic 1st Congressional district, Visconti mounted a GOP challenge against incumbent Representative John Larson.
To say the candidacy was a longshot would be an understatement. The one-year councilman not only lacked name recognition, but was vying for support in a district that had not elected a Republican in almost 50 years.
But for Visconti, the challenge wasn’t just about getting elected. He wanted to do more than complain about the liberal policies he believes are leading the Nation toward ruin.
He wanted to send a message.
“He’s part of the establishment that needs to go,” Visconti had told a reporter at the Hartford Courant at the beginning of his candidacy.
Reading archived news reports about the race makes clear that it was really a surprise to no one when Larson handily swept up 70 percent of the electorate to Visconti’s 28 percent.
If Visconti were a politician, the defeat might have signaled that Connecticut isn’t really the best place for a conservative with little name recognition to dabble in electoral politics. But researching his past political endeavors and speaking with gubernatorial candidate Visconti makes clear why one unfriendly Hartford-area scribe repeatedly referred to him as a “Republican gadfly” in long-forgotten pieces about his early dealings with his local town council.
Visconti isn’t a politician — he’s a fed-up conservative trying to set an example for his similarly-frustrated compatriots.
Running for Governor
On April 4, 2013, the same day that Connecticut’s Governor Dannel Malloy signed into law a comprehensive gun control bill which effectively abrogated residents’ 2nd Amendment rights, Visconti officially joined a crowded GOP field seeking to unseat the Democratic incumbent in 2014.
“I am the guy,” Visconti told Personal Liberty when asked if the timing of his joining the race was symbolic of his support for the 2nd Amendment. “I wear a gun, for thirty years I’ve worn a gun.”
Visconti said that after 40 years working as a construction contractor and his previous ventures in electoral politics, he was content to spread the conservative message as a Tea Party activist in a harshly liberal area. But when the Connecticut legislature’s harshly anti-2nd Amendment bill — described by the candidate as a knee-jerk response to the tragedy at Sandy Hook that did much to target gun rights and little to limit gun violence — was signed into law, he decided he had to run for Governor.
“The day he signed it, I went right across the street … to the Secretary of State’s office,” he said.
Jumping in the race so quickly does pose some difficulties for the candidate, not the least of which is the lack of the information usually gleaned from the exploratory committee that’s usually formed ahead of high-profile races. In a State like Connecticut, funding is also a major issue for anyone vying for office from the outer edges of the political establishment.
Visconti doesn’t seem extremely worried about the unconventional beginnings of his bid for for the governorship. He reasons that his “live off the land” approach could appeal not just to voters in his State, but to people all over the Nation who want to see a conservative underdog topple the establishment of a liberal stronghold.
And so far, he hasn’t been wrong.
“We were hoping to nationalize this issue and it’s going good,” Visconti relayed. “We got money from sixteen States in the last two days, which is great … We’re looking for a lot of people with a little money to help us.”
Prior to and throughout the past year of campaigning, Visconti has become something of a national figure in pro-2nd Amendment and liberty circles as a result of his efforts to spread the message about the over-reach of Connecticut’s gun law. There are several videos floating around the Internet of him appealing to lawmakers at different levels of government to think about the reasoning behind the 2nd Amendment’s inclusion in the Constitution.
Most recently, Visconti appeared in a YouTube video with a Connecticut resident whose words went viral throughout the conservative blogosphere last year, when he told Connecticut State Senator Leonard Fasano and State Representative Dave Yaccarino — both Republicans who voted for the bill — that he would not comply.
“[If] you’re going to talk the talk, you have to walk the walk,” resident John Cinque told the lawmakers at a packed hearing in New Haven.
“I tell everybody I’m not complying,” Cinque went on. “I can’t — you have to be willing to stand up and say no. And there are a lot of us who are going to say no.”
After the video of Cinque’s remarks took off online, he said a police officer from his hometown of Branford reminded him of just how serious the threat posed by the political attack on the 2nd Amendment was in Connecticut.
Officer Joseph Peterson, evidently relishing the potential power to kick in otherwise law-abiding citizens’ doors because of a failure to comply with the government’s demand that guns (and magazines) be accounted for, remarked on Facebook, “I give my left nut to bang down your door and come for your gun.”
Cinque is not alone in his civil disobedience with regard to the Connecticut gun regulations. Connecticut news reports last month indicated that only about 50,000 applications for the certificate of registration now required for so-called assault weapons had been filed, meaning as many as 350,000 Connecticut gun owners have decided to become felons under State law rather than register their weapons.
The figures elicited an editorial from The Hartford Courant that seemed to advocate the sort of response that Officer Peterson would enjoy:
Although willful noncompliance with the law is doubtless a major issue, it’s possible that many gun owners are unaware of their obligation to register military-style assault weapons and would do so if given another chance.
But the bottom line is that the state must try to enforce the law. Authorities should use the background check database as a way to find assault weapon purchasers who might not have registered those guns in compliance with the new law.
Visconti said that he understands the decision of Connecticut gun owners not to comply with the unConstitutional legislation, but because the State has “the most liberal media in the country,” he doesn’t expect the newspapers to agree.
He also noted that some Connecticut residents are not outright disobeying the law. They’re “playing chicken with the police” by taking advantage of a portion of the legislation that allows for restricted firearms to be destroyed but provides no requirement of proof.
Because of his candidacy, Visconti said that he has taken the steps to comply with the State’s gun laws by declaring magazines for his Berretta 380, which were over the 10-round threshold imposed by the legislation.
“I wanted to go through the process,” he said. “For me it wasn’t about disobedience, because I’m taking a political course.”
Part of taking the law on from a political standpoint means that Visconti can’t advocate for disobedience — but he wants gun owners in Connecticut and all over the Nation to know that supporting his candidacy is a step in the direction of restoring the 2nd Amendment.
If elected, the candidate’s power to completely repeal the law would be limited unless the State Legislature first voted for a repeal. But he said he has a plan to incrementally reverse portions of the legislation using executive power while working with the Legislature to address the mental health and safety concerns not addressed in the legislation. If the Legislature put a repeal bill on his desk, however, Visconti said he would sign it without hesitation.
For all of his passion about gun rights, Visconti also makes it clear that he is not a one-issue candidate. His platform includes tax reform, parental education rights and Common Core opt-out options, State spending reductions and pro-business energy initiatives. Nonetheless, he knows that the Connecticut gun law is his best bet for harnessing “organic outrage” throughout the State and getting the support of Connecticut’s underrepresented rural population.
A recent Quinnipiac poll shows Visconti and other GOP gubernatorial contenders trailing behind Republican Tom Foley, who lost the last Governor’s race in the State to Malloy.
The poll also notes that the “rest of the GOP field are virtual unknowns with 72 percent to 89 percent of voters lacking enough information to have an opinion.” Quinnipiac also found that, while 57 percent of voters aren’t actively opposed to the State’s new gun law, 36 percent say it goes too far and 55 percent believe it does little to make the State safer.
If that sounds like bad news for Visconti, perhaps it’s not. He can increase his name recognition by discussing better alternatives to gun control laws that many Connecticut residents have still not embraced. And that, combined with the support from gun owners both in- and out-of-State who are motivated to do whatever is necessary to restore the 2nd Amendment, could be enough to get the longshot contender the keys to the Governor’s office.