Judge’s ruling keeps Ashjian’s Tea Party bid alive for U.S. Senate seat

CARSON CITY — A state judge Thursday dismissed a second lawsuit against the U.S. Senate bid of Tea Party of Nevada candidate Scott Ashjian, ruling a deadline for legal challenges expired months ago.

District Judge James Wilson issued his ruling from the bench following a 30-minute hearing. Wilson said deadlines for filing challenges against candidates or political parties expired in March and June.

Ashjian’s Tea Party of Nevada was formed in January. He collected names of 250 registered voters to get on the ballot.

But the Aug. 31 suit filed by members of Citizen Outreach, a conservative group headed by activist Chuck Muth, argued that as a minor party candidate, Ashjian also was required to submit signatures totaling 1 percent of votes casts in Nevada’s last U.S. House elections.

Other plaintiffs are Dan Burdish, another Citizen Outreach member; Independent American Party director Janine Hansen; and Debbie Landis, president of Anger is Brewing, an organization affiliated with the national Tea Party movement.

Ashjian’s Senate candidacy is denounced by national and local Tea Party groups, who view him as an outsider trying to capitalized on the popularity of the conservative movement.

They also claim that his name appearing as a tea party candidate will benefit Democrat Harry Reid by siphoning votes from Republican Sharron Angle, who has been endorsed by the national Tea Party Express.

Plaintiff’s lawyer Craig Mueller argued that secretary of state’s office delayed their legal filing by not responding sooner to a letter demanding Ashjian’s name be stricken from the ballot.

"They’re benefiting from their own lack of action," he said. The suit sought a court order directing the secretary of state to remove Ashjian’s name.

Ashjian’s lawyer, Allen Lichtenstein, countered that sending a letter to the secretary of state doesn’t equate to filing suit, and that it’s not up to that agency to file anything.

Deputy Attorney General Kevin Benson agreed, and said the deadline was March 29 to challenge a candidate and June 18 to contest a minor party.

"Obviously, they’re way past those deadlines," he said.

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