A national Tea Party group is calling for voters in Nevada to reject the candidacy of Scott Ashjian, whose challenge of Democratic Sen. Harry Reid on the Tea Party ticket has been called a “fraud.”
“We at the Tea Party Express have a message for Scott Ashjian, whose been trying to pretend he’s in the Tea Party Movement: Get lost,” Tea Party Express spokesman Mark Williams says in the ad that’s set to be released Thursday by the group and its Our Country Deserves Better PAC.
Ashjian, who is said to be little known among Tea Party groups in Nevada, has been accused of getting in the race to split the conservative vote with the Republican candidate and actually help keep Reid in office.
“Dozens of Tea Party groups across Nevada have spoken out against your candidacy,” Williams continues. “None of us has even heard of you or seen you at a Tea Party rally. Nothing. We think you’re a fraud whose trying to split the vote and help re-elect Harry Reid.”
In an interview several weeks ago with The Daily Caller, Ashjian denied that’s the case. “There is absolutely no truth to the rumor that Harry Reid is behind my campaign,” Ashiian said then. “I’ve never met Harry Reid, don’t support Harry Reid, I run the opposite of Harry Reid.”
Asked how it’s grassroots for a group to determine who is and who isn’t a Tea Partier, Williams said in an email that, “We denounce anybody who represents themselves as a Constitutionalists and tries to glom onto the Tea Party idea for any purpose other than to fight for human rights.”
“Case in point, those people who call themselves Tea Partiers while engaging in racist or homophobic behavior,” Williams wrote. “Same goes for those who misrepresent themselves for the purposes of personal gain or in some misguided effort to confuse the general public.”
Tea Party Express sent out a press release about the video Thursday afternoon, claiming to have already spent over $350,000 in its campaign to “Defeat Harry Reid.”
A national Tea Party group going on the air and calling a self-described activist a “fraud” is sure to draw criticism by conservatives who say the movement is leaderless and does not let groups tell them who is or who isn’t a Tea Partier.
Asked if Tea Party Express has the right to deem Ashjian not a true Tea Partier, Mark Meckler, the co-founder of Tea Party Patriots, wrote in an email that, “We don’t get directly involved in opposing or supporting candidates.”
“We have nothing to do with Tea Party Express,” Meckler wrote. “They will have to define themselves and comment on their own ads. You would be best off asking them about this ad, not us.”
But pressed on whether other groups find third party candidates to be detrimental — or if he saw the video as solely part of a Tea Party Express (TPE) effort — he wrote back, “This is solely a TPE effort.”
Ashjian was not immediately available for comment.
*Updated at 11:31 a.m. to reflect comments by Williams, at 1:51 p.m. after TPE sent out a press release and 3:15 p.m. to add Meckler’s response.