March 25th, 2010
05:02 PM ET
11 years ago

Tea Party group goes after 'fake' candidate

(CNN) - A national Tea Party group is firing away at what it calls a "phony" Tea Party candidate running against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid this year in Nevada.

Tea Party Express calls Scott Ashjian, a candidate for Senate for the Tea Party of Nevada, a "phony and a fraud" in a new Web video.

"We at the Tea Party Express have a message for Scott Ashjian, who has been trying to pretend that he's part of the Tea Party movement - get lost!" says Mark Williams, chairman of the Tea Party Express, in the video. "None of us have ever heard of you or seen you at a Tea Party rally. Nothing. We think you are a fraud who's trying to split the vote and help re-elect Harry Reid."

The video is available on the group's Web site, and a Tea Party Express spokesman tells CNN that the video has been sent out to the organization's 400,000-strong e-mail distribution list.

Tea Party Express is working to defeat Reid, who's facing a tough re-election as he battles for a fifth term in the Senate. The group is kicking off its third cross-country caravan with a rally Saturday in Searchlight, Nevada, Reid's hometown.

Former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin is scheduled to headline the event.

Tea Party Express was one of a number of Tea Party groups that helped financially support Republican Scott Brown in his upset victory in January's special Senate election in Massachusetts for the seat of the late Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy.

In a statement to CNN, Ashjian fired back, saying, "The Tea Party Express is an organization largely funded and promoted by Our Country Deserves Better PAC which is nothing more than a front for the Republican Party. Republicans have demonstrated that they will stop at nothing to keep from having real conservative values being represented on the ballot."

Tea Party Express officials say they will consider putting the Web video on broadcast and cable in Nevada if Ashjian stays in the race.

But in his statement to CNN, Ashjian doesn't sound like a candidate about to drop out of the race: "I won't back down. I won't step aside. I intend to win the conservative majority in November," he said.

Ashjian tells CNN he'll attend the Tea Party Express kick off rally in Searchlight. Tea Party Express says Ashjian is free to show up at the event, but will not be invited to take the stage.

Earlier this week, an independent Senate candidate and Tea Party backer filed a lawsuit to get Ashjian's name removed from the ballot. The candidate, Tim Fasano, tells CNN that Ashjian has "usurped the Tea Party movement's name in an effort to gain shadow support by shear virtue of running a party called the Tea Party of Nevada, which is not associated or affiliated with any Tea Party movement nationally or in this state."

Fasano adds that Ashjian "has claimed he has support of the Tea Party grassroots movement when in fact he has never - and this verified by people of many Tea Party organizations - when he's never spoken to organizers of these groups and won't speak to people in the Tea Party."

Fasano says he thinks Ashjian's bid was started by the Reid campaign as a way to "bleed off conservative votes."

Some Nevada Republicans running against Reid also are accusing Ashjian of being a fake.

"No doubt about it", says Danny Tarkanian, who is 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 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."

The Reid camp denies any involvement in Ashjihan's campaign.

Sue Lowden, the Republican front-runner in the Senate GOP primary, according to recent polls, is the former Nevada Republican Party chairwoman. Lowden says she's been very active with Tea Party groups in Nevada.

"I am a Tea Party voter, absolutely," she says.

Which is why she tells CNN that 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."

A recent poll conducted for the Las Vegas Review-Journal indicates Lowden and Tarkanian each beating Reid in one-on-one hypothetical general election match-ups. 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; Barry Levinson, the secretary of the Tea Party of Nevada - which Ashjihan created - is a self-acknowledged registered Democrat.

Levinson tells CNN, "I vote the person not the party" and calls the accusations "political garbage."

Ashjian seems to find the fuss amusing. New to the political scene, he personally gave CNN directions to his house for an interview in 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."

As for 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."

- CNN's Kevin Bohn contributed to this report.

Filed under: 2010 • Harry Reid • Nevada • Tea Party Express • Tea Party movement
soundoff (35 Responses)
  1. inofritzn

    Pathetic move by pathetic democrats

    March 25, 2010 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  2. Walter

    So if the Tea Party "movement" is so grass roots and independent, how can it have "fake" candidates? What would it mean to be an "official" tea party candidate?

    March 25, 2010 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  3. The Unsub

    "None of us have heard of you or seen you at a Tea Party Rally"

    So this is a gang now? You have to be present at a Rally or seen by the shot caller? They are a mess.

    March 25, 2010 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  4. Corey Schmitz

    The tea-party folks go to such pains to say that they're not republican, people of both parties are welcome in the tea party, yet whenever a democrat or democratic idea sniffs around it's beaten away like a plague. We all know that about a year from now the tea party will be folded back into the GOP, pulling a right wing party even further to the right.

    March 25, 2010 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  5. Sandy

    Some groups just love eating their young!

    March 25, 2010 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  6. Victim of GOP Taliban

    ALL the Tea Party people are "phony" and nothing more than an extension of the GOP. Maybe you goons should of thought of that first before Dick Armey and his big corporate sponsors launched the campaign.

    March 25, 2010 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  7. John

    Fake People always go after Fake.

    Birds of the same feathers, flock together.


    March 25, 2010 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  8. cheann

    I love it when they eat their own!

    March 25, 2010 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  9. Allen in Hartwell GA

    Talk about a circular firing squad!!!

    March 25, 2010 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  10. An 8 year old ELEPHANT dung heap, does not transform into compost in just 1 year!

    Wow, filed a lawsuit to get his name removed from the ballot?

    The tea baggers are nothing more than fascist terrorists

    What's wrong, did he fail the "purity test"?

    March 25, 2010 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  11. Patriot

    The Enemy of my Enemy is my friend!

    March 25, 2010 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |

    All we've been hearing is that the Tea Party movement is not a single movement of a single mind but many many views. Now all of a sudden it seems that if Mr. Williams doesn't know you then you are a fraud. All of a sudden Mr. Williams speaks for the entire Tea Party movement, I think not. And just who appointed Mr. Williams as the official Tea Party movement, let me guess, he did. So remember everyone, if Mr. Williams doesn't know you, you do not belong to the Tea Party movement.

    March 25, 2010 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  13. conniesz

    This is all pretty hysterical – I mean what defines a real Tea Party candidate? This guy registered the party name and got on the ballot – I'd say he's the real thing and the rest of them are posers.

    March 25, 2010 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  14. The Unsub

    Pssst. Hey Republicans.....I am about to give away the game to you for 2012.....


    March 25, 2010 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  15. key

    I want to know the principles of the tea party. Romney and Cheney two big tea party supporters were never considered conservative

    March 25, 2010 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  16. Al Bluengreenenbrownenburger

    Like watching sharks bite each other in a feeding frenzy.

    So Tea Party zealots, answer me this: Why did so many Tea Party protestors yell the n-word at the black congressman last week?

    March 25, 2010 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  17. David

    If is in fact a fraud, this is brilliant.

    March 25, 2010 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  18. GI Joe

    With the likes of Dick Army heading up so many fake tea parties (for profit), it's hard to keep them all straight.

    I know which representative and senator I will vote AGAINST in NC.

    And Dick Army and others like him can't change that.

    March 25, 2010 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  19. No Incumbents 2010

    Scott Ashjian is a tea party true believer who wants to downsize government. These groups outside of Nevada should not be so elitist. Scott Ashjian is a tea party patriot who is not a career politician like Harry Reid. Scott Ashjian has as much right to run for office as any other citizen. He many not be welcomed by these national cliques but he believes in the tea party values.

    March 25, 2010 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  20. IVOTE

    Tea Party.....Are you getting paranoid?

    March 25, 2010 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  21. Obama the Socialist Liar

    A socialist bum could beat 'dirty harry' if he was on the ballot....Wait that would be 'dirty harry' hisself.

    March 25, 2010 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  22. Karl Larson

    as expected, this organization based on hatred and intolerance is beginning to collapse from within

    March 25, 2010 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  23. Tune in to FOX for news

    I am glad they are on to him. Dems are desperate. They know what is in store for them.

    We will take back America soon, and make it a better place for ALL. 🙂

    March 25, 2010 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  24. Fitz in Texas

    Bet if you went to the closest ACORN office you would find Scott Ashjian there, or maybe Reid's house.

    March 25, 2010 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  25. A. Goodwin

    Looks like the American Taliban (aka – Tea Party) is ready to implode. Good!

    March 25, 2010 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
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