EDITOR’S NOTE: This semester WTVR.com has partnered with VCU’s School of Mass Communications “iPadJournos” mobile and social media journalism project. Students from the project reported the following story.
RICHMOND, Va. – Tareq Salahi is a man whose reputation precedes him. The former winemaker and public official has made a name for himself with his former wife, appearing on the Bravo television show Real Housewives of D.C., but is internationally known for “crashing” a White House state dinner four years ago.
Originally a contender for the Republican nomination, Salahi is now running his own write-in campaign to become Virginia’s next governor. He refused to sign a pledge of support for all of the nominated Republican candidates, saying he could not support gubernatorial nominee Ken Cuccinelli.
Salahi decided to run as an independent, but did not receive the 10,000 signatures needed, and could not be placed on the ballot. He has since focused his efforts on a write-in campaign, hoping to capture moderate voters.
“It’s really a two-party system, Republican and Democrat. When we travel throughout Virginia, we hear from the voters that they really want an alternative choice, so at least they still have a choice by doing a write-in opportunity where they go and vote in November,” Salahi said in an interview last month.
On his website, Crashthevote.com, Salahi states that he is fiscally conservative, but realizes that people are looking for someone with more progressive social views. He said that he disagrees with Cuccinelli’s views on social issues.
“I disagree with all his political positions and views, especially when it comes to women’s rights, same sex marriage and abortion,” said Salahi. On his website he states that he “believes that the government should stay out of our private lives and personal choices.”
In the past, Sarlahi served for several years on the Virginia Wine Board and the Virginia Tourism Corporation. He said that at that time he offered legislation to support small businesses and was appointed by both Republican and Democratic governors.
“Both of my opponents can’t say that. They can’t say that they’ve actually had laws passed with bipartisan support on both sides of the House and Senate. I’ve had great success with that. And in fact, I’m the only candidate who’s had success in that way,” he said.
As a write-in candidate, there is little chance that Salihi will actually win the governorship, according to Don Palazzolo, professor of political science at the University of Richmond.
“It is always hard for write-in candidates to garner a lot of votes,” said Palazzolo. “I don’t expect Salahi to get many votes.”
The main problem is a lack of resources and name recognition, Palazzolo added. Historically, the chances of winning a write-in candidacy are slim, but it has been done.
“One recent high profile example is Sen. Lisa Murkowski,” said Palazzolo, referring to the U.S. senator from Alaska. “After being defeated in a Republican primary by a Tea Party favorite, Murkowski, the incumbent Republican senator, was able to mount a write-in campaign and win as an independent,” he said.
A write-in campaign has even been won close to home. In 2011, Wayne Emery won the position of commonwealth attorney for Richmond County on write-in votes.
Salahi isn’t alone in his write-in campaign for governor this fall. He is joined by John Parmele, a Navy retiree from Virginia Beach, who is also running on a similar platform, hoping to show the public’s dissatisfaction with the two-party system.
Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling is also expected to receive a number of write-in votes, but not due to his own campaigning. Bolling suspended his gubernatorial campaign last fall after the Republican party changed the nomination process from a primary election to a closed party convention. Many Bolling supporters, dissatisfied with Cuccinelli, have pledged to write-in Bolling’s name on Nov. 5. The Daily Progress in Charlottesville has even endorsed Bolling for governor and called for write-in voters for him.
This story was reported by the “iPadJournos” mobile and social media jourlaistm project, a cooperation between WTVR.com and VCU’s School of Mass Communications.