The Tea Party Express plans today to launch an ad denouncing Scott Ashjian for running his U.S. Senate campaign under the Tea Party of Nevada banner without backing from local and national members of the movement, a person familiar with the ad said.
The move comes as Ashjian faces political and personal legal troubles. State officials on Wednesday revoked his contractor's license after he failed to respond to the Nevada State Contractors Board and skipped an 8:30 a.m. hearing regarding defaulted business payments. Earlier this week, an independent candidate and Tea Party backer filed a lawsuit to get Ashjian's name removed from the ballot.
"This challenge is nothing more than another attempt to silence me -- to bully me -- out of a race I am committed to winning," Ashjian said Wednesday in an e-mail response to the lawsuit.
Ashjian, a first-time candidate from Las Vegas, has not been invited to Saturday's Showdown in Searchlight event organized by the Tea Party Express in U.S. Sen. Harry Reid's hometown, a major event to kick off a cross-country tour to Washington, D.C.
The event is aimed at supporting conservative candidates, mostly Republicans who believe in smaller government and lower taxes.
Ashjian has said he plans to crash the party, but he is not on the speakers list, and he has been called a Tea Party fraud by members of the movement in Nevada and nationally.
To get the word out, the Tea Party Express put together an ad that will say it "doesn't view Ashjian as a serious candidate," sending a signal to thousands of members of the movement in Nevada not to support him for Senate, the person involved in the ad effort told the Review-Journal on Wednesday.
"We are going to take it to the next level," said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the ad will not be officially announced until today in an e-mail to the media and supporters.
The video ad will be released first on the Tea Party Express' Facebook site and on YouTube with the hope that it "will go viral" and be spread far and wide across the state and the nation, the person said. Then the group will decide on how widely to run it on TV and radio in Nevada.
The ad launch comes two days before the Searchlight event. Organizers expect the event will attract 5,000 to 10,000 people or more from surrounding states who will come to oppose Reid and to hear former GOP vice presidential candidate and conservative icon Sarah Palin speak at a noontime rally.
The Democratic Senate majority leader is seeking a fifth term and is being targeted by Republicans in a year in which his popularity has plummeted partly because of the divisive health care overhaul legislation that President Barack Obama pushed through Congress.
Revocation of Ashjian's contractor's license means his company, A&A Asphalt, is no longer legally in business. Ashjian cannot finish any projects in progress, and he cannot bid on any new jobs.
"The bottom line is we've got people handling it," he told the Review-Journal.
The contractors board has received five complaints related to money Ashjian owes totaling nearly $37,000 in defaulted payments, including a bad check written for $981.82. As a result, Ashjian's license had been summarily suspended since Feb. 3.
He now faces an additional $1,500 in fines and $1,148 in investigative costs, said Art Nadler, contractor board spokesman.
"He's not licensed," Nadler said. "He has to abide by what we stipulated he has to do. He has to settle everything."
Once Ashjian pays what he owes, there is a chance his license could be reinstated, Nadler added.
California, Arizona and Utah have a working partnership with Nevada officials in that all four states honor one another's judgments regarding contractor licenses, Nadler said.
Ashjian is among more than 20 candidates who filed to run in the Senate race, including a dozen Republicans, several little-known Democrats, three nonpartisan hopefuls and one member of the Independent American Party.
On Monday, the Independent American Party of Nevada filed a lawsuit to remove Ashjian from the ballot as a Tea Party of Nevada candidate, saying he filed for his Tea Party candidacy at 10 a.m. on March 2 but did not change his registration from Republican to the Tea Party until 2:25 p.m. that day.
Independent American Party officials contend Ashjian could not have filed as a Tea Party of Nevada candidate when he was still a registered Republican. Filing a false declaration of candidacy violates state law and could lead to his removal from the ballot.
Ashjian responded to the accusation by forwarding an e-mail thread to members of the media Wednesday morning, arguing that Nevada has no law telling minor-party nominees they must have been registered in their party by a particular date and that it would be an unconstitutional requirement.
"Clearly these people are afraid I will siphon votes from their political party and from the Republican Party. But I intend to earn the support of the conservative majority in Nevada and win this election," said Ashjian, who noted that the Independent American Party has fought similar battles to get on the ballot.
A recent poll commissioned by the Review-Journal shows that an unnamed Tea Party candidate in the Senate race would win 18 percent of the vote, an unnamed Republican candidate would get 32 percent, and Reid would gain 36 percent to win re-election if the vote were held now.
Contact reporter Laura Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2919.