Move over, Ken Cuccinelli II and Terry McAuliffe. There’s another candidate in the high-stakes Virginia governor’s race. Sort of.
After months of on-and-off campaigning for the commonwealth’s top job, former White House gate-crasher Tareq Salahi announced Tuesday what he called “a new turn” in his bid — an effort to get voters to write in his name on November’s ballot.
Salahi — a vintner and once-and-future reality TV star who lives in Front Royal — describes himself as a “New Republican” and a more palatable alternative to Cuccinelli (R) and McAuliffe (D). (Robert Sarvis is running for governor as a Libertarian.)
But despite what he described in a news release as “overwhelming support” for his effort, Salahi was apparently unable to collect the necessary 10,000 signatures to make the ballot as an independent by Tuesday’s deadline.
As he’s traveled Virginia, Salahi said, he’s encountered voters who have told him that they “are not comfortable voting for either candidate” for governor because they “fear the direction these two will take.”
“I urge my fellow Virginians to rise up and join me in letting our voices be heard,” Salahi said.
And in another twist, Salahi said he would transition “toward seeking a United States Congressional seat in an upcoming election cycle” if he doesn’t win the governorship. Salahi lives in the 6th District, a seat held by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R), although candidates do not have to live in the districts where they run.
Salahi originally sought to run for governor as a Republican but then changed his plans after saying he would not sign a pledge to support the eventual GOP nominee.
When he announced his intention to run last year, Salahi said he would participate in a documentary about his campaign called “In It to Win It,” which an aide said Tuesday is “still filming.” Salahi has dismissed the suggestion that he is simply seeking a way to stay in the limelight.
Salahi’s public events have been few and far between, and it has been difficult at times to determine just how “real” his campaign is or how hard he is trying to gather signatures to make the ballot.
He has not received any cash campaign donations, according to Virginia Public Access Project records, although he has reported receiving some “in-kind” donations of campaign services. Salahi also reported lending his campaign $10,500 last year. As of May 29, his campaign had $333 in the bank.
Salahi also has been embroiled in legal and financial disputes around the state, some stemming from fights with creditors and some from his divorce from Michaele Salahi, who took up with Journey guitarist Neal Schon.