Tea Party candidate for Nev. Senate questioned by tea party groups, GOP candidates
House leaders facing the wrath of just-departed Rep. Eric Massa aren't the only ones crying conspiracy theory this week. In Las Vegas, CNN's Jessica Yellin reports, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is facing Republican accusations that he's behind the emergence of a third-party Tea Party candidate on the ballot who could divide conservative voters and help him win reelection this fall.
The charge against Jon Scott Ashjian is being led by his would-be GOP opponents, such as Danny Tarkanian, who accuses him of having weak tea party ties. "Nobody in the Tea Party knows who he is. He didn't know any of the principles of the Tea Party," Tarkanian told the network.
GOP primary field leader Sue Lowden, a former Nevada Republican Party chairman who calls herself a Tea Party voter, also questioned Ashjian's tea party bona fides. "I don't know who this person is. He's never been involved with anything that I'm aware of in this state," she told CNN.
Ashjian is the first tea party candidate to announce a third-party Senate bid and is running on the Tea Party of Nevada ticket. A former Republican, Ashjian told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that his values are those of former president Ronald Reagan, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin and iconoclastic Texas Rep. Ron Paul (R). "We're not Republican or Democrat," Ashjian told the paper, which predicts his bid can only help Reid. "We won't fold into one party or the other."
Ashjian rejects charges that he is in league with Reid, and both Reid and Ashjian said they have never met. Said Reid to CNN: "I think there are too many conspiratorialists in the world today. This is a free country."
The Las Vegas Sun has also dismissed the allegations, writing in a profile of the Ashjian, "He's no stooge of Sen. Harry Reid" -- and noting that the novice politician and businessman owes more than $200,000 in back taxes.
March 10, 2010; 2:56 PM ET
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