By Joe Beck
Tareq Salahi wants Republican voters in the 10th Congressional District to know he's more than a White House gate crasher, reality TV show figure and one-third of a romantic triangle that led to him divorcing his wife after she abandoned him for an aging rock music guitarist.
Salahi wasted no time in declaring his candidacy when U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Vienna, announced his retirement plans in mid-December. Within hours, Salahi launched his campaign with a press release holding himself out as someone "well acquainted with financial struggle and hardship many Virginians have been facing and (having) empathy and respect for people who have somehow managed to tough it out in these challenging times."
Salahi, who lives in Warren County near Linden, is not letting his residency in another congressional district -- the 6th represented by U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Roanoke -- deter him from running to succeed Wolf. Candidates for Congress are not required to live in the same district as the seat for which they are running, although those living outside the district often find themselves targeted for criticism from their opponents.
Salahi said in an interview last week his residency shouldn't concern voters. He was in the 10th District until the last round of redistricting shifted the boundary lines outside Warren County. The district now includes parts of Frederick, Clarke, Fairfax, Loudon and Prince William counties.
"I didn't move but the lines moved," Salahi said.
Salahi enters the race with an advantage in name recognition over other declared Republican candidates -- state Sen. Richard Black, R-Ashburn, Del. Barbara Comstock, R-McLean and Frederick County Board of Supervisors chairman Richard C. Shickle -- although the notoriety has come with considerable controversy.
His first appearance in the national media spotlight came in 2009 when Salahi and his then-wife Michaele slipped into a White House state dinner without an invitation. The incident led to an appearance before the House Homeland Security Committee and a reality TV show, the now-canceled "Real Housewives of D.C."
Michaele Salahi filed for divorce in Warren County December 2011, a few months after the Sheriff's Office investigated a report from Tareq Salahi that she had been kidnapped. It turned out that Michaele had left Tareq and joined guitarist Neal Schon of the band Journey on tour. They have since married, but not before an ugly round of recriminations between her and Tareq Salahi during the divorce proceedings.
Tareq Salahi's write-In campaign for governor in 2012 caused nary a ripple of interest, but he insists this time will be different.
Salahi said he now operates a travel and tourism company specializing in offering advice on food and wine in Virginia, Italy, France and South Africa. He cites "hardships I endured with government overreaching" that led to the bankruptcy of his Oasis winery near Hume as the main reason why he is running.
He said he will work to reduce government interference in business and people's private lives. Salahi calls himself a "new Republican" who favors abortion rights, same sex marriage and banning workplace discrimination against gay employees.
"What we're hearing when we go around the district is that people don't want extremists," Salahi said.
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org