RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - He may be the most well known candidate in the race for governor but his celebrity has nothing to do with politics. Tareq Salahi is better known as part of the infamous duo that crashed a White House state dinner, but he is serious about being Virginia's next governor.
That White House incident, he and his ex-wife's Michaele stint on the popular reality show "Real Housewives of DC" and then their very public, strange break-up, that included an 80's hair band, have made Salahi a celebrity.
But despite not all of that notoriety being positive, Salahi believes it has actually helped his campaign.
"You can't sneak in to the most well guarded institution in the world," Salahi said of the White House incident, "It just doesn't make se sense."
Salahi contends that he did not thing wrong that night, and once his legal issues were behind him he decided capitalizing on it through reality TV was nothing more than good clean fun.
"Reality TV is what it is," he said. "It is really the modern day soap opera."
And being the star of that soap opera is something Salahi believes has given him a head start on connecting with Virginia voters.
"People were clearly fans of the show or from the White House incident," he said. "But they knew there was more."
That more is a businessman who has served on boards for several governors and worked to pass legislation to help small business. He calls himself a centrist. A Republican who wants to cut taxes and regulation, but is pro-choice on abortion and believes same sex marriage should be legal.
It is a mix he believes voters, some of whom he met Friday night a the Capitol tree lighting, will identify with.
"Knowing who the real Tareq Salahi is," he said. "Not the one on camera who sometimes has to be a little dramatic on a reality TV show."
An uphill battle perhaps, but one Salahi seems prepared to take on.
Salahi will battle with Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli at the GOP convention, but concedes that will be tough, especially with is liberal view of social issues. He said if he is unsuccessful there, he will run in the general election as an independent.
You can see our full uncut interview with Tareq Salahi on DecisionVirginia.com.