The amusing saga of Tea Party of Nevada candidate Scott Ashjian has become a fascinating thread weaving in and out of the fabric of the U.S. Senate race. It could be one of the more memorable stories of the political season if votes cast for him contribute to a Harry Reid win in November.
This spring, a man unfamiliar to activists in Nevada’s Tea Party movement registered a brand new political party with the Secretary of State and named himself its first candidate. Some immediately speculated he was part of a Machiavellian scheme by the Harry Reid campaign to siphon votes from the GOP candidate and to assist Reid in his bid for reelection. Others said Ashjian was guilty of political opportunism while still others rolled their eyes as reports of liens, fines, and lawsuits surfaced, revealing a seriously flawed candidate.
Ashjian initially rejected suggestions that his candidacy would split the vote, but a recent press release revealed he knows better:
Scott remained quiet to allow [GOP challenger] Sharron [Angle] to muster everything she had to demonstrate she could beat Harry Ried [sic] in November without the distraction of a 3rd candidate. He wanted to see if Sharron could dominate Reid in the polls and not try to split the conservative vote.
“Every vote cast in this race that goes to a third party candidate or ‘none of the above’ is essentially a vote for Harry Reid,” said Nevada Republican consultant Ryan Erwin in an interview with Battle ‘10.
If Ashjian remains on the ballot, a percentage voters will undoubtedly punch the button for the Tea Party name even though the candidate is unknown to them. Even one percent could matter in a race predicated to be so close. Combined with votes that will go to other candidates, it could well make the difference between victory and defeat for Reid.