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)  

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)  

Athey elected to 26th Circuit Court Judgeship

Clifford L. “Clay” Athey, Jr. commented today on his election by the Virginia General Assembly to fill the current Circuit Court vacancy in the 26th Judicial Circuit.

“I am overwhelmed and humbled by the support of my former colleagues on both sides of the aisle in the General Assembly. I intend to work very hard to deserve the trust my former colleagues have placed in me,” he said.

Athey added, “I am particularly appreciative of the efforts of my former colleagues in the Shenandoah Valley Caucus and look forward to working with Frederick County Circuit Court Clerk, Becky Hogan, and her diligent and professional staff to protect and serve the citizens of the 26th Judicial Circuit.

As I begin this new endeavor, I am comforted by the quality of the outstanding attorneys who will be practicing before me in the 26th Judicial Circuit.I would be the first to acknowledge that although I may be succeeding Retired Circuit Judge John Prosser, I can never hope to replace someone of his caliber. Certainly, as I begin this new challenge, I will be relying upon my new colleagues including Judges Prosser, Wetsel, Hupp, Lane and Wilson who are among the most distinguished Judges in the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

Athey concluded, “I would not have been able to serve in any position of public trust without the steadfast love and support of my beloved wife Stacey, and our twins, Madagan and Clayton. In addition, I have greatly benefited from the loving guidance, advice, and support of my sister and law partner, Kimberly M. Athey, and my parents, Lynwood and Phyllis Madagan Athey. Without question, it is my family, Madagans and Atheys alike, to which I owe a debt of gratitude for my upbringing and faith in God. My family’s prayers and hard work along with the support of so many of my constituents has afforded me an opportunity to serve the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia throughout my adult life.”

From a release.

Published in: on May 15, 2012 at 3:31 pm  Comments (2)  

Ron Paul campaign Tweets, deletes, re-Tweets cheap shot against Jon Huntsman

By Dan McDermott
Warren County Report

Perhaps snatching public relations defeat from the jaws of a potential Iowa victory, Texas Congressman Ron Paul’s verified Twitter account caused quite a distraction tonight by posting the following about Republican rival and former U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman.

@jonhuntsman we found your one Iowa voter, he’s in Linn precinct 5 you might want to call him and say thanks

Huntsman is sitting out the Iowa caucuses and setting his sights on next week’s New Hampshire primary.

We first learned about this on the social network Google+ from a post by popular user Linda Lawrey who has over 340,000 followers.

Shortly after Lawrey’s post the Paul campaign deleted the Tweet. Then a few minutes later it was posted again.

No official word yet from the Paul or Huntsman campaigns.

Follow Dan McDermott on Google+.

Published in: on January 3, 2012 at 9:48 pm  Comments (1)  

BREAKING: Republicans take control of the Virginia State Senate – (maybe)

By Dan McDermott
Warren County Report

Assuming current unofficial results hold, the Virginia State Senate has just switched hands with Republicans gaining two seats to form a 20-20 tie, allowing Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling to cast deciding votes.

Control of the senate rested on the results of a nail-biter in district 17 where Republican Bryce E. Reeves edged Democrat R. Edward “Edd” Houck by just 86 votes, or .2%, out of 45,056 cast. An apparent glitch in heavily Republican Spotsylvania County precinct 303 had incorrectly shown only a handful of votes cast earlier.

Republicans already hold all three statewide offices and control the House of Delegates by a wide margin. The GOP last had total control of the commonwealth from 2000 to 2002.

Published in: on November 8, 2011 at 11:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

Murray wins three-way supervisor squeaker

By Dan McDermott
Warren County Report

Republican Dan J. Murray, Jr. has won the North River District seat on the Warren County Board of Supervisors by a margin of 18 votes.

Murray garnered 374 votes or 36% in unofficial returns.

Democrat Chris W. Holloway received 356 votes or 35% while independent candidate Victor “Tory” Failmezger received 300 votes or 29%.

Published in: on November 8, 2011 at 8:43 pm  Comments (2)  

McEathron handily beats back challenge

By Dan McDermott
Warren County Report

Warren County Sheriff Daniel T. McEathron has won a third term, beating back his first challenger since he was first elected in 2003.

With all precincts reporting, Republican McEathron won 3,455 votes or 68% of the vote to 1,635 votes or 32% won by independent candidate Robbie Seal, a Front Royal Police Sgt.

(Updated at 8:49 p.m.)

Published in: on November 8, 2011 at 8:04 pm  Comments (3)  

Tederick email targets independent

While Matt Tederick, left, never made good on a promise to contribute $50 to Victor "Tory" Failmezger's campaign to assure he would be in the race long enough to campaign against - he did make good on the second part of that promise, campaigning against the North River independent candidate, pictured at right.

Failmezger ‘saddened’ by ‘tone’ and ‘untruths’ of Tederick attack

By Roger Bianchini
Warren County Report

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any weirder – it DID!!!

“IT” is the three-way race for the North River District seat on the Warren County Board of Supervisors in which a recent and still philosophical Republican is running as a Democrat; a philosophical Democrat is running as an independent; a Republican who wasn’t planning on running for anything this fall is running – of all things – as a Republican; and the incumbent Democrat, Glenn White, local Republicans wanted to unseat isn’t running at all.

The assumed weirdness PEAK for us was long-time local Republican strategist Joe Swiger’s Facebook political seduction and slap-down of former Republican and neo-Democrat Chris Holloway (see related story first posted on the Warren County Report website on Nov. 2nd).

The follow-up pre-election weirdness was a rambling, and according to its target, factually inaccurate and intentionally misleading four-page written attack on the character and opinions of independent North River candidate Victor “Tory” Failmezger made by local Republican activist Matt Tederick.

In light of earlier statements, including an unfulfilled publicly-stated promise to contribute $50 to his campaign so that he, Tederick, could assure a chance to campaign against him, Failmezger told us he had been expecting such an attack from Tederick.

Among the allegations Tederick makes are that Failmezger is not from here but would dictate what is best of the community, has been termed an elitist in a 2005 Washington Post article, doesn’t want others to prosper, and is arrogant and wrathful for expressing past opposition to development and expansion of the Crooked Run Shopping Center.

Official responses

Of Tederick’s attack, Failmezger released this statement:

“I have read Mr. Tederick’s letter of November 4th and am truly saddened by the tone, twisted words, untruths and quotes taken out of context with which he attacks me. He used these same negative tactics a year ago when he attacked Bret Hrbek in an attempt to unseat him as vice-mayor of Front Royal. He must feel very threatened by my candidacy to craft such a politically motivated letter. I am sure the voters in the North River District will see through Mr. Tederick’s attempt to affect the election and vote for who they see as the best candidate.”

Asked about his reaction to Tederick’s attack on another candidate, Republican North River candidate Dan Murray told us, “I have stated for the record that I would run a clean gentlemen’s campaign. I have kept my word! I had no knowledge of this letter till it was forwarded to me. He [Tederick] does not endorse anyone as his candidate of choice. This is adding drama at the close of the campaign.”

Fresh off his e-mail ambush by another local Republican activist, Joe Swiger, the other North River District candidate, Chris Holloway, declined to get anywhere near this one.

Elitist conspiracy?

One clear-cut example of what he perceives as Tederick’s distortion of the truth is a quote taken from a 2005 Washington Post article. In his anti-endorsement letter/e-mail Tederick accuses Failmezger of moving to Warren County “recently” with an “elitist” agenda and uses a quote from a 2005 Washington Post article by M.J. McAteer titled “Jeffersonian Ideals” to make his point.

“Having traveled the world, he and his family decided to move to Warren County to show us what we have been doing wrong and as Travis McDonald said in a Washington Post article: ‘Failmezgers are members of an elite group.’ (Tederick’s emphasis)”

“I don’t know if buying property and moving here in 1994-95 is exactly recent,” Failmezger said. “And the Post quote was taken totally out of context from an article about architecture and our efforts to design our home in the style of Thomas Jefferson’s home at Poplar Forest.”

In fact, Failmezger, who with his wife Patricia are former owners of Old House Architectural Parts on East Main Street in Front Royal, notes the referenced article publicized not only their architectural efforts on their own home, but Front Royal and its downtown business district as well.

Failmezger produced a copy of the article from which the quote Tederick used to label him an elitist was taken. The relevant section from which Tederick quoted reads:

“Travis McDonald, director of architectural restoration for Poplar Forest, says the Failmezgers are members of an elite group. The Museum of Southern History outside Houston copied the exterior of the Jefferson retreat, he says, but the inside bears no resemblance to Poplar Forest. Otherwise, McDonald knows of only a handful of projects in which the Poplar Forest plans have been ‘reinterpreted.’ The Failmezgers, he says, are unusual in their fidelity to Jefferson’s vision.”

Poplar Forest was Thomas Jefferson’s private house outside of Lynchburg, VA. He built that home starting in 1806, Failmezger told us. The Failmezger home was designed, both inside and out, to mirror Jefferson’s design.


However Tederick said he “completely” stands by his letter, including the above quote. While some might view the Failmezgers’ desire to design a home based on one of Virginia’s most prominent architects and politicians as a creative tribute, Tederick sees it more negatively.

“How many people do you know who have a house modeled on Thomas Jefferson’s?” he asks.

Tederick says he believes his portrayal of Failmezger is accurate and for the independent candidate to say he is pro-business is “disingenuous”. Rather, Tederick feels Failmezger has a vested interest in protecting in-town commercial development, where the candidate has his own business interests.

In his campaign, downtown businessman and North River District Planning Commission representative Failmezger has promised to balance the business interests of the county and town. His campaign brochure states, “… the town and county are interwoven. A vibrant downtown and a controlled commercial and industrial corridor in the county are essential to the community.”

While he said he does not totally dismiss the notion of good planning, Tederick sees Failmezger’s use of the word “controlled” regarding north corridor commercial development as code for no commercial growth in the corridor.

However Failmezger counters that notion by pointing out that he once was personally involved in attempting to recruit an outside commercial/industrial client to the county’s north corridor.

“So it is just not true that I am against the creation of jobs or increasing the commercial tax base of this community,” Failmezger insists.

As for Tederick’s assertion he “verbally attacked” Crooked Run attorney Clay Athey during a 2006 public hearing, Failmezger says, “That I attacked Athey at that public hearing – that’s just not true. I said there was a lot of unused commercial land in the corridor that I would like to see used before there was further commercial rezoning. I may have said I liked to see trees on that hill, I’m not sure about cedar (as referenced in Tederick’s letter), rather than additional commercial buildings there. But I made no personal reference to Mr. Athey,” Failmezger says.

As for a commitment to preservation of natural settings, Failmezger said he is not arrogantly dictating anything to anybody. Rather, as he did at the Sept. 25th Candidates’ Forum and in his campaign literature, he points to the result of a 2010 Countywide survey in which citizens listed “rural settings, quiet and peaceful surroundings and current quality of life” as their three top reasons for living in Warren County.

As for Tederick’s assertion he is personally responsible for ongoing delays at the Crooked Run Center, Failmezger observes, “That land (Crooked Run II) is rezoned for development – it was approved by the supervisors. It was the developer who said well, we’re not ready so we will proffer not developing [Phase II of Crooked Run] before 2012. It wasn’t me, it was the economy that has held that development up.”

But Tederick’s not buying it. – “He has selective memory,” he said of Failmezger. “It’s just different visions … Win or lose this battle’s not over … I’m a passionate guy … I’m not arrogant enough to say I’m always right … but I believe what I say,” Tederick told us.

And so it goes on the campaign trail in Front Royal and Warren County as Election Day 2011 approaches.

Published in: on November 7, 2011 at 2:44 pm  Comments (3)  

Holloway ‘stunned’ by Swiger email

Longtime GOP activist Joe Swiger sent this scathing email Nov. 1 to Democrat Board of Supervisors candidate Chris Holloway.

By Roger Bianchini & Dan McDermott
Warren County Report

A long-time Warren County GOP activist is standing by a harshly worded email he sent to dozens of local citizens regarding a requested public endorsement from North River supervisor’s candidate Chris Holloway despite an apparent earlier online offer of campaign assistance.

On Nov. 2nd Warren County Report was forwarded a stinging e-mail from local Republican activist Joe Swiger to Holloway by one of a list of 84 recipients to which it was copied. Swiger, a former Front Royal Electric Department Director and unsuccessful 2010 town council candidate, was concluding what both men admit began as a Facebook “friends” exchange (see related images).

We contacted Holloway about the detailed “No thank you” reply from the longtime local Republican strategist. Holloway said he was reluctant to get into a back and forth with someone not in the race with just a week left before the Nov. 8th election. However Holloway did tell us he was stunned by Swiger’s e-mail reply because he believed Swiger had offered help to his campaign in its final weeks.

Current Front Royal Vice-Mayor Holloway said Swiger initiated recent online contact with him on Facebook. Subsequent contact included a critique of Holloway’s Oct. 25th Candidate’s Forum performance – essentially, “I thought you did well but so did your opponents” – as well as an offer to contact him if Holloway thought there was anything else he, Swiger, could do to help Holloway “hit a second gear” in his North River campaign.

Asked if he perceived his recent Facebook exchange with former Republican Holloway as an offer to help the vice mayor’s Democratic North River campaign, Swiger said simply, “Why would I do that?”

Warren County Republican activist Joe Swiger send an email critical of Democrat Board of Supervisors nominee Chris Holloway after the two had this exchange on Facebook.

What are ‘friends’ for?

Holloway said he followed up on his perception of the initial Facebook “wall” exchange with a personal Facebook request only Swiger could view asking for a public endorsement. That private communication was sent at 6:53 PM on Oct. 29, just seven minutes after his Facebook “wall” thanks to Swiger’s earlier message of that afternoon.

Three days later on Nov. 1 Holloway and 84 others received this e-mail reply to that private Facebook communication:

“This message is being sent to you in reply to your request for me to write a letter to the newspaper and to phone everyone I know in North River magisterial district to help you be elected to the Warren County Board of Supervisors.

“I can best answer you with these facts in mind: (1) You could have resigned from Council bettering your chances of being elected Supervisor and giving me the chance to be appointed in your place. That’s the normal path for the runner-up in the past Town election, yours truly. The course you took is blatantly selfish. (2) This would have obligated me to your campaign in the district where I lived for quite some time. It would have given me the chance to either accept or refuse the appointment. I would have still been obligated to you either way. (3) Even if you are elected Supervisor you will be ineffective because you would be the only Democrat and there’s little hope for other Democrats to win in this County, in my opinion. (4) I probably will never run again for Council but if you are unopposed or under opposed I would run wide open this time to delete you just like Mr. Hrbek.

“So you know by now my answer to your request. No thank you.

“I will give you this favor: This reply will only go out via e-mail. On Facebook I’m limited to a small word total and on e-mail I only send it to my friends.”

Swiger said he sent the response out early in the morning, around 1 AM, after giving it much thought.

“I sent it. I call it a factual statement and I stand by it,” Swiger said on Nov. 2 of his non-endorsement reply to Holloway.


Holloway raised eyebrows among local Republicans when he jumped from the Republican to Democratic Committee in late July several weeks after failing to make an expected bid for the Republican nomination for North River supervisor. Holloway then drew the ire of local Democrats by garnering his new Party’s nomination over two-term incumbent Glenn White at an Aug. 6 caucus just 10 days after officially resigning from the Republican Committee. Many local Democrats were upset that Holloway’s Democratic caucus support base of 31 was made up of people never previously seen at a Democratic function or meeting. Holloway won the Democratic nomination by a 31-15 margin four days after declaring for the nomination.

Swiger is a long-time local Republican political strategist, with a hand in the political careers of two former mayors, the late Bob Traister and Clay Athey, the latter also a multi-term 18th District state House delegate, as well as current supervisor Tony Carter and former supervisor Matt Tederick. Swiger was forced out of his town electric department job in 2002 following a contentious investigation launched by Town Manager Rick Anzolut following a department accident in which lineman Dallas Campbell broke his neck and inaccurate reports about the in-house cause of the accident were initially issued out of the department.

Holloway is opposed in the North District race by Republican Dan Murray and Independent Victor “Tory” Failmezger, the latter with long-time ties to local Democrats.

Published in: on November 2, 2011 at 8:34 pm  Comments (4)  

Live blogging the Republican debate on Google Plus

Warren County Report Publisher Dan McDermott and Lynchburg Times Senior Political Writer Emily Williams will be live blogging the MSNBC-POLITICO Republican Presidential Debate starting at 8 p.m. Eastern on Google Plus: [CLICK HERE]

If you do not see an option to comment there, you need to log in to Google Plus or sign up. Just send an email to and we’ll get you signed up right away. (You will need to get a Gmail address to sign up for Google Plus.)

Published in: on September 7, 2011 at 7:44 pm  Comments (1)  
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