Tareq Salahi announces independent run for Va. governor

White House party crasher and vintner Tareq Salahi says he will run for governor of Virginia as an independent.

Salahi said in April that he planned to seek the Republican nomination for governor, and he has run a nontraditional campaign in recent months. State Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II was the only person to file as a GOP candidate for governor, and he was deemed the nominee Monday. He is expected to face veteran campaign strategist Terry McAuliffe, the lone Democrat.

Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling left the GOP contest in November and is also considering an independent bid.

Salahi told The Washington Post on Monday that running as an independent improves his chances in November.

“That’s the best way I can win this race, not going to the convention,” he said. “I’m doing just like Bill Bolling did. I can’t agree with anything that Cuccinelli believes in.”

Tareq Salahi testifies before the House Homeland Security Committee on Jan. 20, 2010. ( Larry Downing/REUTERS)

A request for comment from the Cuccinelli campaign was not immediately answered.

Salahi said he was prepared to pay the $25,000 fee to qualify for the May 18 nominating convention, but he said he was told that his refusal last month to sign a pledge of support for all 2013 Republican candidates could disqualify him from the GOP process.

Salahi said then that he would seek the office as an independent if he was shut out of the convention.

Republican Party of Virginia spokesman Garren Shipley said that Salahi had until Monday afternoon to decide whether to run as a Republican. “Anybody who wants to pay the filing fee and sign the forms as they were presented . . . that’s the qualification.”

The deadline to qualify for the GOP convention was 5 p.m. Monday.

Shipley said Salahi met with state party Chairman Pat Mullins last month but declined to discuss the details of the meeting.

Salahi said he started collecting the 10,000 signatures required to be on the general ballot earlier this year but would not say how close he is to reaching that goal. He said he plans to collect double the number of required signatures.

“I don’t want [Cuccinelli] to say the signatures aren’t valid or try to throw some out as my opponent and the attorney general,” Salahi said.

“We are going to be there” on the ballot, he said. “That’s a guarantee.”

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