Earlier this month, Jon Ashjian entered the Nevada Senate race as a
third-party candidate. Ashjian represents a group called the Tea Party
of Nevada, whose values
believe in Limited Government, Free Speech, the 2nd Amendment, our
Military, Secure Borders and our Country"--seem broadly consistent with
those of the other groups using the Tea Party name. Yet many Tea
Partiers have questioned
whether Jon Ashjian and the Tea Party of
Nevada are true friends of the movement. Last week, 20 Nevada-based
grassroots groups signed a statement
disavowing the Tea Party of Nevada and banning its members from
"conservative grassroots events and functions" throughout the state.
Why is the main Tea Party stem so suspicious of Ashjian and his group?
- Party Pedigree Seems Confused Bob Owens,
the conservative blogger behind Confederate Yankee, examines the Tea
Party credentials of the Nevada party secretary Barry Levinson and
finds them spotty at best. "Levinson is a disgruntled Obama supporter
... He's also a Bush-hating conspiracy theorist," Owens explains,
linking to relevant entries on Levinson's own blog. "I've not heard of
many... pro-Obama tea party supporters spouting radical left wing 'Bush
lied, people died' conspiracies."
- Real Tea Partiers Wouldn't Play the Politics Game (Also, They Stole Our
Acronym) Sherry Phillips, vice president of the activist group Tea
Party Nation, circulated a memo
to its members last week. "TPN (Tea Party Nation) is against the
formation of a third party political party," Phillips's letter reads,
echoing a belief common among the Tea Party faithful that the movement
belongs outside the political establishment. Don't be fooled by the Tea
Party of Nevada's initials, Phillips warns: "TPN - Tea Party Nation is
- Ashjian Might Be a Democratic Stooge It's been suggested that
Ashjian's presence in the Senate race could split Nevada's conservative
vote, thus throwing the election to Harry Reid, the embattled
Democratic incumbent. In fact, Ashjian's candidacy represents such a
potential boon to Reid that some Nevada Republicans have been
promulgating the theory that Reid's behind the whole thing. Danny
Tarkanian, a hopeful for the Republican Senate nomination, recently told CNN
that "nobody in the Tea Party knows who [Ashjian] is" and that there's
"no doubt" Reid set his campaign in motion. Both Tarkanian and Ashjian
are Armenian-American, and Tarkanian later told reporters that the
Democrats might have picked Ashjian as a spoiler because "they know
the Armenians are very close; they'll vote for each other."
- Or He Might Be a Republican Stooge The Examiner's Mark Anderson posits
a different scenario: Ashjian was planted in the race by a Republican
candidate looking to sponge Tea Party conservatives to one side before
the primary. Anderson points a finger at GOP hopeful Sue Lowden, saying
that if "Lowden runs away with a primary win and Jon Scott Ashjian
'disappears' after the primary date, that would be a fairly strong
signal that the Tea Party of Nevada is an intraparty operation."
Want to add to this story? Let us know in comments
or send an email to the author at
aeichler at theatlantic dot com.
You can share ideas for stories on the Open Wire.