Metro Weekly

Republican Candidate Smeared Feces on Daycare Center

Joseph Viso, a candidate for New Jersey General Assembly, has a history of legal troubles -- and of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric.

Joseph Viso Jr. – Photo: Facebook

A Republican candidate for the New Jersey General Assembly pleaded guilty to a 2009 incident in which he smeared fecal matter on the doors of a children’s daycare center.

Joseph Viso, Jr., a candidate for the 36th District, covering Bergen and Passaic counties, pleaded guilty to criminal mischief charges that stemmed from a dispute with the owner of the East Rutherford-based Children’s Studio, whose building was adjacent to an electrical company Viso owned at the time.

Viso was fined $250 for the act, reports the New Jersey Globe.

“Those people harassed my men every day,” Viso told the Globe. “They had cars ticketed every time my men parked on a side street.”

Colleen Dolaghan, the owner of the daycare center, informed police at the time of the incident that someone had “smeared fecal matter over the handles and locks of all the doors of their business,” according to a police report from East Rutherford police detective Chris DeCarlo.

After DeCarlo told Viso there were pictures and video of the incident, Viso apologized, telling the detective, “I am not proud of what I did.”

Viso, 52, told the Globe he cleaned up the center’s doors. “It was done before anyone got hurt,” he said. “I’m not going to defend it. It was wrong. I was a young man. It was a horrible time, and I made a mistake. Obama came into office the year before.”

It remains unclear how Obama’s presence in the Oval Office was precisely connected to Viso’s motivations for retaliating against the daycare center.

According to the Globe, police reports from the time say that Viso’s company, Viso Electric, would frequently blast loud music with offensive lyrics next to the daycare center playground as part of the feud between the two businesses.

Viso has a history of legal troubles that have seen him take several plea deals on various gun- and drug-related charges, including possession of a sawed-off shotgun and possession of methylone and heroin, according to additional reporting by the Globe.

For instance, in 2016, Viso was previously charged with possessing 5,000 grams of methylone, an ingredient used to manufacture MDMA, also known as molly or ecstasy. With the amount he possessed at the time, it was alleged Viso had enough to make 5 million MDMA tablets.

He later copped to a plea deal, admitting to one count of conspiracy to distribute methylone, and was sentenced to three years of probation.

“I was sick fighting cancer, and I got myself in trouble,” Viso told the Globe. “I had to sell my pain medications to pay for my health insurance.”

Viso, who previously ran for office during the 2021 cycle, said he disclosed his legal troubles to Joe Crifasi, the District 36 Republican chairman, when he decided to run for office this year.

“I reached out to my district chair and asked if a person with a felony could run for office, and he said yes,” Viso said.

Crifasi confirmed that he knew of some of Viso’s past run-ins with law enforcement, but distanced himself from the campaign.

“I’m not that active with the campaign,” Crifasi said. “I don’t recruit people. If they show up and want to run, then they get nominated. I’m just a figurehead.”

Viso, who is one of two Republicans running for one of two Assembly seats against incumbents Gary Schaer (D-Passaic) and Clinton Calabrese (D-Cliffside Park), has a legitimate chance to win this year’s elections on November 7.

Even though the district is considered Democratic-leaning, especially in recent odd-year election cycles, conservative voters have tended to show up in greater numbers.

Additionally, there has been a backlash against Democrats nationally and within the state, with Democrats like President Joe Biden and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy seeing their approval ratings drop over the past few years.

Murphy and his fellow Democrats significantly under-performed, both in terms of polls and expectations, during the 2021 elections, with Murphy barely winning the 36th District by a 5-point margin that year.

Viso, like many other Republicans seeking office this year, has made “parental rights in education” and the promotion of “family values” some of the cornerstones of his campaign.

In a joint mailer with fellow Assembly candidate Craig Auriemma and Senate candidate Chris Auriemma, Viso pledges to “repeal the NJDOE-required Comprehensive Health and Physical Education Student Learning Standards to create a more inclusive and representative set of learning standards that reflect the needs and values of the wider community.”

The aforementioned standards, which don’t mandate specific curricula, but set forth guidelines about health-related topics that students are expected to learn about, have come under fire from conservatives who feel the topics that are broached by the guidelines are either inappropriate for minors or may border on being sexually explicit.

Some parents have taken issue, in particular, with guidelines suggesting that students learn about sexual orientation, gender identity, and physical anatomy, and have urged other parents to “opt out” of such instruction.

In a September 15 Facebook post, Viso linked to an article accusing a local LGBTQ nonprofit of “sneaking gender lessons into schools so parents can’t opt out.” 

“They are coming for our children whether you like it or not,” he wrote. “If we do not stand up now, it will be too late. These people are sick and need to be stopped…. Save our children!”

A month earlier, Viso re-shared another Facebook post criticizing the Murphy administration for suing school districts whose policies require educators to inform parents if their children express a gender identity that does not match their assigned sex at birth.

Such policies require teachers to “out” such students as transgender or gender-nonconforming to their parents. The original poster criticized Murphy as “out of touch with reality.”

He has also shared similar posts accusing Democrats of pushing policies that keep parents in the dark about whether transgender-identifying children have socially transitioned, or accusing LGBTQ advocates of “sexualizing” children — echoing the “groomer” narrative that conservatives throughout the country have embraced in recent years, often response to support for the LGBTQ community or public expressions of LGBTQ identity.

In June, he re-shared several posts, including one decrying gender-affirming care for trans children that argued that they should not “‘affirm’ an identity that they will likely outgrow” and another lamenting policies allowing transgender youth to use gender-affirming bathrooms.

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