They say they want a revolution, but they sure don’t want Jon Scott Ashjian to lead it.
Like a groundhog in search of the first sign of spring, Ashjian recently popped up from obscurity to file as a candidate for the U.S. Senate on the upstart Tea Party of Nevada ticket. His critics have been playing whack-a-mole ever since.
Some detractors claim Ashjian is a stalking horse who has entered the race to siphon off angry Republican votes to the eventual benefit of war horse Democrat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Others are certain Ashjian is an opportunist intent on building his political profile on the backs of the Tea Party movement, which has been accused of existing to vilify Democrats and gin up support for the Republican Party under the guise of a grass-roots phenomenon.
Yes, that potentially makes Ashjian a shill candidate who has infiltrated a shill movement.
On Monday, a complaint was filed in Carson City by members of the Independent American Party in an attempt to remove Ashjian from the race. The IAP has pinpointed what its leaders believe are enough holes in Ashjian’s filing to knock him off the ballot.
Why is the IAP so motivated to do what appears to be the bidding of the Republican Party?
Because thousands of those Tea Party supporters are registered Independent American Party members, says IAP state executive director and Assembly District 33 candidate Janine Hansen.
The IAP already has its own Harry-hating Senate candidate, Tim Fasano, whose political logo includes the catchy phrase, "Tired of Harry Reid’s Lies."
"We have participated fully in the Tea Party," says Hansen, who describes the IAP as strict constitutionalists. "We are concerned about the fact that (Ashjian) does not represent the Tea Party movement and has usurped that name. He will receive a large number of votes, and it will be falsely, because he’s not a member of the Tea Party group. Tim Fasano has been very involved in the Tea Party movement and has a much more clear representation of their point of view."
Hansen is a cranky constitutionalist and proud of it. She reminds me that the Tea Party movement started out of anger at Republicans as well as Democrats. But it’s pretty clear it’s morphed into a platform for Republican speechmakers, as evidenced by the scheduled event Saturday in Searchlight. It’s been reported that Ashjian will attend the rally, which is headlined by Sarah Palin. Will he be allowed to speak?
The former Republican’s Web site declares, "I am running because I love my country and Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama are ruining it. It is time to take our country back and I am asking you to join me in this fight."
Sounds angry enough, but IAP state chairman and secretary of state candidate John Wagner isn’t buying it.
"I believe he hijacked the name, Tea Party," Wagner says.
Shortly before the IAP filed its appeal Monday in a Carson City courtroom, Wagner outlined the critical flaw in Ashjian’s declaration of candidacy.
"At the time that he filed his candidacy, he was not yet a member of the Tea Party," Wagner says. "He did not do that until afterwards. You’ve got to do it in the right order."
The IAP officials should know. They fought to collect signatures and win status as a minor party in 1992. Their candidates are crushed in almost every race — the Searchlight constable’s and Eureka County clerk’s offices are the exceptions — but they’ve remained true to their conservative philosophy.
Now that the Tea Party revolution has begun, they don’t plan to cede the cranky constitutionalist high ground to Jon Scott Ashjian.
John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. E-mail him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0295. He also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/smith.