March 10th, 2010
12:25 PM ET
4 years ago

A Tea Party Fake?

Is it possible to be a fake Tea Partier?
Is it possible to be a fake Tea Partier?

Las Vegas, Nevada (CNN) - It's a grassroots protest movement composed of the newly politicized and people distrustful of hierarchy. So how is it possible to be an illegitimate Tea Party member?

Ask Republicans in Nevada. Some are accusing Jon Scott Ashjian, a new Tea Party candidate running for U.S. Senate, of being a fake. The allegation? He was put in the race by agents of Senate Majority leader Harry Reid to siphon votes from the GOP.

"No doubt about it", says Danny Tarkanian, one of the many Republican senate candidates hoping to challenge Reid in November. "Nobody in the Tea Party knows who he is. He didn't know any of the principles of the Tea Party," Tarkanian tells CNN. He even accuses "Harry Reid's staff, campaign, whatever" of picking Ashjian because he's Armenian, as is Tarkanian. He explains, "They know the Armenians are very close they'll vote for each other."

Sue Lowden, the Republican front-runner in the Senate primary according to recent polls, is the former Nevada Republican Party chair and seems to be the Republicans' best hope of unseating Harry Reid in November. Or at least she did, until Ashjian got into the race. Lowden says she's been very active with Tea Party groups in Nevada. "I am a Tea Party voter, absolutely." Which is why she tells us she finds it "a little strange" that Ashjian is emerging now. "I don't know who this person is. He's never been involved with anything that I'm aware of in this state." She doesn't know if he's a spoiler. "We'll find out for sure," she promises, adding "I've never seen him at one of our tea parties, by the way."

Its clear why Lowden and Tarkanian would be concerned. A recent poll conducted for the Las Vegas Review-Journal indicates Lowden and Tarkanian each beating Reid in one-on-one hypothetical general election matchups. But add a Tea Party candidate on the ballot and that siphons off enough conservative votes to give Reid a narrow victory. According to the survey Reid would grab 36 percent of the vote, the Republican candidate 32 percent and the Tea Party candidate 18 percent in a possible three way showdown.

So the conspiracy theories abound from Tea Party activists and worried Republicans: Ashjian's never attended Tea Party rallies; he hasn't coordinated with local organizers; the secretary of his Tea Party of Nevada, Barry Levinson, is a registered Democrat. Levinson, tells CNN "I vote the person not the party" and calls the accusations "political garbage."

But to critics it's all proof Ashjian is, in the words of a Nevada tea party activist and blogger Ned Barrett running a "false flag operation."

Jon Scott Ashjian seems to find the fuss amusing. New to the political scene, he personally gave CNN directions to his house for an interview which his wife, daughter and bulldog attended. He told us it was the first time he'd spoken with the national media. Ashjian, who helped form the Tea Party of Nevada just to run for this seat, laughs that he'd never take marching orders from the Democrats or Harry Reid.

"I have never met Harry Reid, do not agree at all with any of his political values," says Ashjian, adding that he's not the kind of guy "who would follow or be told what to do." He says he's fielded endless calls from Republicans trying to strong arm him to leave the race and resents it: "I don't think Republicans own the Tea Party," Ashjian tells CNN. "In fact I know they don't in Nevada, because I do. That's what's really got them in an uproar." He says he's been informed he's not welcome on the bus when the Tea Party rolls into Nevada.

Ashjian says he got into the race because "we are patriots that want change. We're normal people that want to make a difference."

First he plans to make a campaign website.

A spokesman for Tea Party Express, a national Tea Party group that is encouraging efforts to defeat Reid at the ballot box in November, says it does not view Ashjian as a serious candidate. They say he's not speaking at either of their two rallies in Nevada on March 27, when they kick off their third Tea Party cross country caravan with events in Searchlight (Harry Reid's hometown) and Las Vegas, but they say he's welcome to attend. Tea Party Express also says they are not endorsing any candidate in the Nevada GOP senate primary.

As for Senator Reid, an aide dismisses the accusations. As does Reid who says he's never met Ashjian or "anyone in his family".

Reid tells CNN, "I think there are too many conspiratorialists in the world today. This is a free country."


Filed under: Tea Party movement
soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. joe dokes

    The Tea Party... a fascinating train wreck if there ever was one.

    March 10, 2010 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  2. Rob Johnson

    Before too long, the GOP will wish they had never encouraged and enabled these people.

    It is too late to put the genie back in the bottle. The Republicans may end up doing very well in the midterm elections in November, but their sucking up to the lunatic fringe will hurt them terribly in 2012.

    2012 Presidential Election Prediction...

    Barack Obama 45%
    Sarah Palin 40%
    Tea Party candidate 15%

    March 10, 2010 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  3. dora

    Ask yourself why the Republicans are so afraid of the Tea Party, maybe because they are looking at the future?

    March 10, 2010 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  4. ran

    If anyone gets enough signatures on a petition to run for any office they have that right. The Republicans are afraid of more competition.

    what this country needs is more Independents to run against both Democrats and Republicans. The two party system has become gridlock because neither party, but mostly the Republicans,do not want to work to get things done for the people.

    March 10, 2010 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  5. NVa Native

    Heading down the rabbit hole to the fantasy land of tea-baggers. Who cares who these self-righteous mobsters put up. Dick Armey and Dick Cheney are the tea-bagger poster boys for their arrogance and ignorance fueled by fear and bigotry.

    March 10, 2010 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  6. Stallion

    Senator Reid has already shown us what his interpretation of what a "free country" is and it's also pronounced CORRUPTION

    March 10, 2010 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  7. awaitingliberalizationbyCNN

    Sounds like something the liberals would do. After the shady land deals and all of the corruption he has brought to Congress, it wouldn't surprise me if Reid had brought in the mob connected Obama administration as his political consultants and they hatched this scheme. Sounds like Obama.

    March 10, 2010 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  8. chris l

    Hey CNN, I realize that it upsets u that Dingy Harry Reid is definitley going to lose reelection. No matter what u write, no matter how many times you attempt to cause fractions in the tea party movement or republican party, absolutely nothing is going to change the bloodbath that the Radical Liberal Party will face in November. Count On It

    March 10, 2010 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  9. Angus McDugan

    Just like Dems and Libs to resort to trickery to derail the will of the people.

    March 10, 2010 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  10. Annie, Atlanta

    CNN, I hope you stay on this. I've suspected the Republicans of doing this for years (see Bart Stupak as an example, with his C Street affiliation). Could be the guy sympathizes with the tea partiers but has not actually been involved in the movement. Will be interesting to watch.

    March 10, 2010 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  11. dutch

    What a silly question to ask. That's like asking is fake to be a fake republican. Tea Partiers are the extreme right wing of the republiKKKan party.

    March 10, 2010 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  12. if I was crazy, I'd be a conservative too

    Those republicans and tea baggers are interesting critters. They denounce their own. More party purging and purity for the right wingnuts. I think it is all about his last name as it does not sound like a white American country clubber.

    March 10, 2010 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  13. Enough is Enough

    Sounds like something Reid would do. Remember a vote for Reid is a vote for the greedy trial lawyers sucking the life blood out of the economy.

    March 10, 2010 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  14. Sloan School of Politics

    Question: How is it that a Republican ... Tarkanian (whose daddy was a cheating college coach) is an EXPERT who is qualified and not qualified to be a member of the TEA PARTY?

    Answer: Because the TEA PARTY is a sham movement ... it is an attempt by the Repubican Party to APPEAR to be different from the GOP to siphon of Independent Votes.

    The Republican Party's brand is so TOXIC that they have resorted to that old MBA'er trick of launching a product line extension to broaden their appeal. This is like Buick, Oldsmobile, Chevy, Pontiac, .... they are hardly any different.

    If they can keep the charade going through the next 2 elections, the core GOP can cleanse its image while all the birthers, socialist-spewers, etc. find refuge in the Tea Party.

    March 10, 2010 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  15. repntenn

    I get the picture. It's ok to proclaim yourself a member of the Tea Party if you are a conservative Republican and are railing against the Democrats, but if you are a true Independent instead of a conservative Republican, and you are making a stand against both parties, then you are a faker.

    If the Tea Party is supposedly drawing more and more people to their cause all the time, why is it so strange that no one knows this guy? Maybe it's just that the leaders of the Tea Party are the real fakers and haven't given up their Republican party ID's.

    March 10, 2010 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  16. rdepontb

    A spoiler, in the Tea Party! Ha ha ha! That would sure serve you right!

    March 10, 2010 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  17. not_a_dem_anymore

    HAHA! Silly Reid!
    These current democrats think the american people are STUPID! Its evident in tactics like this and hte ramming of health care down our throats because they 'know best'. Someday, the dems will get me back in their party but for now, its TEA for me!

    March 10, 2010 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  18. Rupugliban are Repugnant Taliban

    You knew this one was coming when this all began. No Tea Partiers are going to claim the Democrats set them up to be unseated if they lose a primary to someone else, I can't wait till John McCain gets accused of being put in as a fake by the Democrats and so some Tea Bagger lost, it is going to be one very funny and interesting off season election, the clowns are divided and wrestling each other in the mud in the streets and it is all Repuglibans who are so fed up with themselves and think they are so despicable they are willing to throw mud everywhere except where it belongs, in their own faces.

    March 10, 2010 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  19. Ruth

    These people need to get a hobby. Learn to read \!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    March 10, 2010 09:32 am at 9:32 am |