An unlikely candidate on the road to Richmond

Salahi WWBT

Tareq Salahi’s celebrity merges with candidacy in gripping reality campaign

By Dan McDermott
Warren County Report

In terms of minority inclusion and outreach, the election of 2012 was a disaster for the Republican Party. Cemented by that infamous “47-percent video,” the GOP message wasn’t selling and minorities weren’t buying. Republicans even lost the once rock-solid Florida Cuban vote.

In his book “Why Romney Lost,” former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum pulls no punches when describing the party’s almost deliberate effort to drive a wedge between their party and minority and lower income voters.

“To be a patriot is to love your country as it is,” Frum writes. “Those who seem to despise half of America will never be trusted to govern any of it. Those who cherish only the country’s past will never be entrusted with its future.”

Perhaps with this in mind, it was noteworthy that in our conversation with the unlikeliest of all candidates for Governor of Virginia, Tareq Salahi – yes, that Tareq Salahi from the White House State Dinner and Real Housewives of DC fame – made his efforts to embrace minority voters almost a central theme of our recent interview.

Salahi has two versions of his website, one in English and one in Spanish. He says he is the first Va. gubernatorial candidate to do so. When we spoke, Salahi was packing to head to the Richmond area to meet with a wide variety of businesses, media and groups including black and Latino community leaders.

The Tareq Salahi of the past few years was a mountain of stress, his world seemingly falling apart around him. He lost a father, his wife and the family business. The Tareq Salahi of 2012 seems calmer, more relaxed and focused like a laser beam on the road ahead. It is a refreshing change.

But there are two Tareq Salahis.

There is Tareq Salahi the candidate. There is also Tareq Salahi the celebrity who burst onto the national stage by attending a White House State Dinner without an official ticket, who had national television networks literally camped outside his Warren County home running a video feed so the morning shows could switch live in case “anything happened.” He forever added the term “gate crasher” to the first sentence of his biography. That same Tareq Salahi once called me to complain about the term in a story I had written. “I am an ‘alleged’ gatecrasher,” he said, ‘Alleged.’ ”

Well times have changed. – So much so that the former Fauquier County winemaker now embraces the term. You can tell by the name of his website: It is a central theme to his campaign which while unconventional, is surprisingly robust. As for the Crash the Vote moniker, “I’m just having fun with it,” he said.

While political candidates often have TV cameras around them, Salahi is often accompanied at events and on the road by entire production crew. “In It To Win It” is the working title of a reality documentary being made for a movie or series to be broadcast sometime after the November, 2013 election.

Truth is indeed stranger than fiction.

Salahi says he plans to gather at least 20,000 signatures to get on the ballot, twice the number required. While he is running for the Republican nomination and is currently on the road in an effort to line up delegates he says he will be on the ballot in November regardless of whether he wins at the state party convention.

In the meantime Salahi says he plans to attend every local Republican meeting where delegates are chosen in the months leading up to the convention.

Salahi’s agenda is a vague but populist one that few would oppose: working to promote the Commonwealth of Virginia; promoting business and jobs; promoting troops and defense personnel; promoting the agriculture industry; working for lower taxes and less regulation and promoting clean energy production.

In the months ahead, Tareq Salahi the candidate is likely to show up in your town. If you miss the road show you’ll be able to tune in to your TV in 2014 and watch the recap with Tareq Salahi the celebrity.

Dan McDermott:

Published in: on December 21, 2012 at 1:48 am  Comments (10)  

Schmookler’s vision of a non-partisan, cooperative future

Sixth District challenger’s revolutionary idea – politics as truth, not lies

By Roger Bianchini
Warren County Report

Andy Schmookler, Democratic candidate for Congress in Virginia’s 6th Congressional District issued the following statement Nov. 1, with his seemingly impossible task of unseating long-time Republican incumbent Bob Goodlatte in largely rural, central Virginia less than a week away:

“I’ve spoken often against the threat that I see to all that has made America great. And I’ve addressed many nuts-and-bolts issues that affect our district, including jobs and the budget and healthcare,” first-time political candidate Schmookler began. “Now I want to speak to the vision of the America I am fighting for.

“In some ways, it’s the America I grew up in.

“I am fighting for an America where government helps create a vibrant middle class—as it did after World War II by providing educational opportunities for veterans and by creating a more level playing field for companies and workers.

“I am also fighting for an America where our political leaders come together on the basis of the values we share, liberals and conservatives alike, to achieve our common purposes.

“Americans have always been guided by a vision of our best possibilities.

“Generations ago, a great American president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, articulated his vision. ‘I see an America,’ FDR said, ‘where no businessman can be stifled by the harsh hand of monopoly … I see an America where factory workers are not discarded after they reach their prime, where there is no endless chain of poverty from generation to generation.’

“I too support a market economy that maintains fair competition. I share FDR’s concern that average Americans be treated fairly and have the opportunity to better their condition.

“ ‘I see an America of great cultural and educational opportunity for all its people,’ ” FDR said.

“I agree with FDR that there is no more important investment for a society than developing its people’s potential, and that man does not live by bread alone.

“I see an America whose rivers and valleys and lakes – hills and streams and plains … are protected as the rightful heritage of all the people.

“Nature is not merely a means to private enrichment but belongs to us all and warrants our protection.

“Now let me share some of my own vision:

• An America where citizens get health care without fear of being bank-rupted.

• An America where people –including the most powerful–care as much about doing right as about getting what they want.

• An America that honors scientific fact, and where neither corporate powers nor political parties try to deceive people about truths important to their future.

• An America where the young are educated to be productive, but also to become more whole human beings.

• An America that leads toward a time when horrors like genocide cannot happen, because the world won’t permit it; an America leading humankind into harmony with our planet.

“We once had a sense that we were on a path of continual improvement, and determi-nation to strive along that path. I see an America where that is restored.

“We should always ask ourselves, “What do we want America to be like generations hence?” and try to find ways to make it so.

“As the Bible says (Proverbs 29:18), ‘Where there is no vision, the people perish,’ ” Schmookler concluded.

Andy Schmookler has run for Congress for the better part of two years on a platform of “Truth, for a Change.”

He told me about two months ago he didn’t know if he “had enough time” to turn the traditionally conservative Republican 6th District around – around toward the truth, rather than the expedient political lie so prominent at an estimated cost of $1 billion in political advertising in the post-Citizen United-fueled 2012 Presidential and related campaigns.

I guess it depends on how many people in this part of central Virginia are capable of seeing through the highly-financed political rhetoric, no matter how smoothly packaged and presented, unfortunately it seems, without any legal accountability to the truth …

Published in: on November 5, 2012 at 2:26 pm  Comments (3)  

Scary dog costumes on parade

Come out and have a “howling” good time at this 1.5 mile fun walk and costume contest to benefit the Humane Society of Warren County. Sunday, October 21.
Registration: 1:30 to 2:15 p.m.
Town of Front Royal Gazebo on Main Street; Doggie Bags to first 150 to sign in.
Walk: 2:15 to 3 p.m.
From gazebo down Main Street toward Royal Ave. cross Royal Ave. Left on Luray Ave. cross Criser Rd. to Dog Park at Eastham Park
Costume Award Ceremony, 3 p.m. at HSWC booth, Paw Pride Medallions and Top Dog Trophies to:
Funniest Dog Costume
Cuddliest Dog Costume
Scariest Dog Costume
Best Overall Dog Costume
Water, snacks, a raffle ticket for all registered walkers

A Celebration of Dogs: 3 p.m. Join us as we celebrate the Grand Opening of the Warren County Dog Park.

It is $25 to register (registration form available at the animal shelter or by email at Your entry fee includes your walker registration, doggie bag, entrance into the costume contests, one raffle ticket, water and snacks.
Walkers are encouraged to get additional pledges on behalf of their dog. Pledge forms also available.

Special thanks to our Early Bird Cash Sponsors:
$500 Aire Serve
$250 First Bank
$100 Little Red Dog Pet Services
$100 Radiant Child Yoga
$100 Handyman Connection
$100 ING Financial Partners
$100 Syntax Communications, Inc.

Published in: on October 19, 2012 at 5:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

Front Royal man airlifted after apparently accidental shooting – FRPD

The Front Royal Police Department is investigating what appears to have been accidental shooting that occurred Tuesday afternoon. Officers responded to 508 Grand Avenue at about 2 pm after receiving a 911 from the victim’s wife that her husband had been shot, Chief Norman Shiflett said. The victim Jon Michael Bryzinski 26 was shot in the chest after he tried to dislodge a round from a shotgun. The victim was transported to Warren Memorial Hospital and later air lifted to Fairfax INOVA Hospital with life threatening injuries. At this time our investigation is not complete.

– From a release

Published in: on October 16, 2012 at 5:11 pm  Comments (27)  

A Virginia Political Campaign Made for Television

With cameras in tow, Tareq Salahi kicks off underdog bid for Governor’s mansion Sept. 16

By Dan McDermott
Warren County Report

Alleged White House gatecrasher and Real Housewives of DC star Tareq Salahi will have his entire gubernatorial campaign taped for a reality documentary to air after the November election, according to campaign officials.

It is perhaps the first-ever statewide political campaign filmed for an independent reality show. Public taping will begin at a campaign kickoff at Salahi’s Linden, Va. home Sept. 16.

Although he and his ex-wife and Real Housewives reality tv co-star Michaele refused to answer questions before a congressional panel probing their attendance at President Obama’s first state dinner, Mr. Salahi appears to have come around to embrace the incident that immediately thrust him into the national spotlight and global stage. The event is being billed as the “Crash the Candidate BBQ.” In addition to the media and a camera crew of four, the event offers “entertainment, a DJ, and a Hollywood green screen photo op.” Further homage to the state dinner incident can be found in his campaign website’s name:

The film is tentatively called “In It To Win It” and is being produced by veteran PBS executive John Campbell who now runs his own production company. In a statement Campbell said he approached Salahi about doing the project not out of any political motivation but rather to focus on the human interest element. “Here we have a guy who’s triumphs and tribulations have been aired globally…and he could have easily hidden for a few years…yet he didn’t,” Campbell said.

It is his first political film. Campbell’s previous documentaries have focused on a diverse range of topics from U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds to a Canadian folk/rock band to a trip through the Adirondacks in a 1976 motor home.

Salahi concedes that one of his motivations to run for governor occurred in April when one of his potential opponents, Va. Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli announced a lawsuit alleging that Salahi’s wine tour company had violated the Virginia Consumer Protection Act, a charge Salahi says he denies. Salahi filed paperwork to enter the Republican primary the next day. Salahi’s spokesman Eric Miller “took a shot at Cuccinelli” in a statement to CNN, saying the attorney general had wasted “huge sums of taxpayer dollars on witch hunt type investigations,” including the lawsuit.

Salahi says he plans to announce major pillars of his campaign platform at the BBQ kickoff but says that a large focus will be on supporting the military, both as an economic force in the state and of course the troops as well as boosting Virginia’s small businesses including the agriculture industry and the economy in general. Salahi’s family has decades of experience in the wine trade.

Salahi currently has two co-managers for the campaign, one of whom is a former DoD staffer, Mark Vargas and the other a former White House staffer during the Reagan administration, Andrea Ross.

Ross said the filmmakers aren’t paying for any of the campaign expenses and that royalties to Salahi, if any, will likely come after the election when the movie will air on an unnamed national television network or cable channel.

Ross describes herself as a fairly private person and isn’t quite sure what to expect when she ends up on a tv show. “This isn’t Real Housewives and I am not a drama queen. This is a serious business to us. We’re looking forward to getting out there and meeting people and getting people enthusiastic about not just the democratic process but about Virginia and her future. People havent seen this side of Tareq before,” she said. “Most people don’t even know that he has deep political roots in Virginia and has served three different Governors both Republican and Democrat.”

Ross says for now they are focused on the kickoff event. “We are all looking forward to having people in the local community be a part of this. Anyone in the local community. There is going to be a national television show and they are a part of what we booted a king out to be able to do,” she said.

“We are excited for them to be a part of that. Let’s face it, it is an exciting thing.”

The campaign event is Sunday, September 16th at 5 pm at 440 Scenic Overlook Drive, Linden, Va. For more information visit the website

Published in: on August 30, 2012 at 11:58 pm  Comments (8)  

Commissioner of Revenue Smedley reported dead

By Roger Bianchini
Warren County Report

After the sudden onset of chest pains within the last 48 hours, it has been reported from multiple but unconfirmed sources, that Warren County Commissioner of the Revenue John Smedley is dead. We first got the news that Smedley had passed from a friend citing a source within county government around 9:30 p.m., Friday evening, Aug. 24. We later discovered a second source in county government had e-mailed us of hearing the same news just before 9 p.m.

As reported in the accompanying press release, Warren County acknowledged Smedley’s death at 11:38 p.m., Friday evening.

At the Aug. 24 press conference introducing Norman Shiflett as the next town police chief, both town and county officials told us around 4:30 p.m. that afternoon that Smedley was clinging to life following what they believed to be emergency quadruple heart bypass surgery within the past 36 hours.

Prior to the police chief press conference (see accompanying story), Town Councilman Hollis Tharpe first told us Smedley was on life support following complications believed to have arisen after Smedley initially came out of what appeared to be successful surgery. Then Happy Creek Supervisor Tony Carter arrived and said the news was worse – that Smedley had taken a pronounced turn for the worse and was scheduled to be taken off life support at some point after 7 p.m. that evening.

Carter said it was his understanding Smedley had driven himself to the local hospital after experiencing chest pains and that he had then been transferred and the surgery had taken place at Winchester Medical Center.

Smedley was a self-made man with a GED, who fended off numerous electoral challenges to the county constitutional officer position he has held for two-plus decades. Even after establishing himself in the well-paying revenue commissioner position, Smedley continued to augment his income delivering The Washington Post newspaper in the county before he lost that job to cutbacks in the newspaper industry, which even impacted the mighty Post this past decade.

While considered too brusque or confrontational by critics and his diverse political challengers, we found Smedley, if not always in agreement with our coverage of county tax assessment and revenue issues, to be accommodating and humorous in our interactions with him.

Whatever one’s view of John Smedley, he was without doubt an old-school, small-town success story and a political figure who broke the mold.

Published in: on August 25, 2012 at 1:12 am  Leave a Comment  

County confirms John Smedley’s death

In a press release issued at 11:38 p.m., Friday evening, Aug. 24, the Warren County government acknowledged the sudden and unexpected passing of Commissioner of the Revenue John H. Smedley Sr., indicating flags at county buildings will fly at half mast pending further notice.

That release states, “By Order of Chairman Archie A. Fox, Warren County Flags will fly at half-mast until further notice at all County facilities in honor of and in recognition of the contributions of John H. Smedley, Sr., Warren County Commissioner of the Revenue, who passed away this evening at Winchester Medical Center.

“Chairman Fox stated, ‘John was truly a dedicated public servant, serving as Commissioner of the Revenue for seven terms beginning on January 1, 1988. John was a dedicated family man and active member of the community serving as a member of the Virginia Association of Assessing Officers, the Commissioner of the Revenue Association of Virginia, Virginia Association of Local Elected Constitutional Officers, West Central Commissioner of Revenue Association, Virginia Association of Local Tax Auditors, Izaak Walton League, Warren County Republican Committee, past member of the Rotary Club of Front Royal and past member of Front Royal-Warren County Jaycees. We salute his service and send prayers to his family and staff during this time of grief.’ ”

(Info from a release)

Published in: on August 25, 2012 at 1:09 am  Comments (5)  

WCSO Major Norman Shiflett named town police chief

By Roger Bianchini
Warren County Report

At a 4:30 p.m. press conference at Front Royal Town Hall on Friday, Aug. 24, Major Norman Shiflett of the Warren County Sheriff’s Office was introduced by Town Manager Steve Burke as successor to retiring Front Royal Town Police Chief Richard Furr. Furr said his last day on the job will be Tuesday, Aug. 28. His retirement officially takes effect on Aug. 31. According to a press release, Shiflett will assume his new job on Sept. 10.
“Chief Shiflett was selected following a nationwide recruitment and selection process from a pool of over thirty qualified candidates,” according to a town press release. Information obtained by this paper indicated finalists included a retired chief from Alexandria, Virginia, a chief from Arizona, and FRPD Captain Mark Werner.
Werner, Chief Furr and Sheriff Daniel McEathron were among a large contingent of town and county law enforcement personnel present for the announcement.
“I spoke to Mark yesterday and he said he would support me 100 percent and looks forward to working with me,” Shiflett told us following the press conference.
Shiflett also said he was excited by the challenge of heading up the town police force.
“Challenges are good – you do your best work when challenged,” Shiflett said. He also said he would conduct a departmental review to gain input from FRPD personnel on any organizational changes that might be beneficial to the department. “As I said, I’ll have an open door policy for citizens and department personnel. I want citizens and our personnel to know they can come in and talk about their concerns.”
Glancing down as they shook hands following the press conference, Shiflett said, “I’ve got some big shoes to fill,” to which Furr replied, “Only size 12.”
“We’ve been together for 28 years at the sheriff’s office. He came in two years after me,” Sheriff McEathron said of the Major he is losing. “Front Royal is getting a very good man. We go to breakfast in the morning and I don’t think that will stop – we’ll just be wearing different uniforms now. I think it will be very good in strengthening the relationship between the two departments. There is a personal and professional tie there, so we’ll be able to communicate more frequently,” the sheriff said.
McEathron said he would now deal with the problem of replacing Shiflett, a process that is likely to have a “trickle down” effect throughout his department.
“I think we made a very good choice. We had strong candidates but he has served this community not only professionally, but personally too all his life,” Front Royal Mayor Tim Darr said.
The town press release accompanying the announcement, added, “Chief Shiflett is a native of Front Royal and Warren County. He has demonstrated his dedication and commitment to the community through his service in the Sheriff’s Office, as well as his participation in the American Red Cross, Front Royal/Warren County Coalition, Fraternal Order of Police, and his Church.
“Chief Shiflett has served with the Warren County Sheriff’s Office for twenty-eight years, most recently serving as the Major-Chief Deputy for the past four years. In addition, Chief Shiflett is a graduate of the Federal Bureau of Investigations National Academy. Chief Shiflett maintains an extensive training and experience background including supervisory training, crime scene management, neighborhood and community policing management, incident management, and other pertinent law enforcement operations. With the Sheriff’s Office, Chief Shiflett oversaw the proficiency, conduct, and duties of one hundred twenty-four deputies, communication’s officers, and civilian employees.
“Chief Shiflett and his wife Julie reside in Front Royal along with their children Ashley and Matthew. Chief Shiflett plans to enhance the professionalism and expertise of the Police Department through open communication, established standards, and a renewed commitment to public safety.”

Published in: on August 24, 2012 at 6:44 pm  Comments (2)  

House-arrest inmate charged with attempted murder

Victim in Apple Mountain Road stabbing identified as suspect’s wife

By Roger Bianchini
Warren County Report

On August 14, 2012 at 5:47 p.m. the Warren County Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call advising of a stabbing in progress at the school bus stop, pull-off area at the entrance to the Apple Mountain Subdivision on Apple Mountain Road. When deputies arrived on scene they found bystanders treating a white female who had multiple stab wounds.

In a WCSO press release the following day, the female victim was identified as Lakisha Henry, 33 years of age, with the last known address of 90 Rambo Court, Linden, VA. Deputies also located the suspect, identified as Ricky Brian Henry, white male, 32, and the husband of the victim, who was subdued by bystanders at the scene.

Lakisha Henry was treated at the scene by medical personnel. She was then transferred by helicopter to INOVA Hospital in Fairfax where she was still in Intensive Care, listed in critical condition the day after the attack. Mrs. Henry suffered numerous stab wounds to her entire body, the WCSO press release reported.

Initial information received by this reporter indicated the victim was putting children into a van at the Apple Mountain Road bus stop/pull over at the time she was attacked by her husband; and that Ricky Henry was subdued at the scene by three males present at the time of the attack.

Ricky Henry was taken into custody by the deputies on scene “without incident,” the Aug. 15 press release reported. Ricky Henry’s “last known address” was also reported as 90 Rambo Court, Linden, VA.

According to Sheriff Daniel McEathron, Henry was serving a sentence on drug related charges and was in the Warren County Jail’s Work Release Home Electronic Monitoring Program at the time of the attack. It was not immediately clear if either or both the assailant and victim were currently utilizing the Rambo Court home address at the time of the attack.

Ricky Henry was transported to Warren Memorial Hospital and was treated for minor injuries he suffered during the incident. Henry was released from the hospital and transported to the Warren County Jail where he was served two arrest warrants: one for attempted first degree murder and the other for aggravated malicious wounding of Lakisha Henry.

Ricky Henry is being held without bond on both charges and his next court date is set for August 17, 2012 at 10 a.m. in Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court.

Published in: on August 15, 2012 at 2:17 pm  Comments (13)  

Stabbing suspect was on home-monitored work release

Was Apple Mountain Road attack random or case of domestic violence?

By Roger Bianchini
Warren County Report

Warren County Sheriff’s Office responded to a stabbing incident in the Linden area of Warren County on August 14, 2012 at approximately 5:47 p.m. The victim was severely injured and flown to a trauma center due to the extent of the injuries.

Initial information received by this paper from sources close to the scene indicated the incident occurred on Apple Mountain Road at the school bus stop-pull off area just north of the I-66 overpass. While unverified at this time, the victim was said to be a female, who was putting children into a van at the time she was attacked. The victim was aided by witnesses at the scene, according to sources.

A suspect was apprehended at the scene and is currently in the Warren County Jail. According to Sheriff Daniel McEathron, the suspect is Ricky Brian Henry, a 32-year-old white male. Henry was serving a sentence on drug related charges and was in the Warren County Jail’s Work Release Home Electronic Monitoring Program.

The investigation is ongoing at this time and no further details are available.

Published in: on August 15, 2012 at 12:06 am  Comments (7)  
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