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December 1, 2015

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Jon Ralston couldn’t make this up if he tried: Ashjian important

Jon Scott Ashjian may be a self-aggrandizing egomaniac who is in the U.S. Senate race only for attention.

But even so, he sure got attention this week — from a well-known D.C. lawyer, who called him to see if he could be persuaded to get out of the race, and then from Angle, who met with him the following evening to no avail.

"I'm in it to win," the colorful — and quite possibly delusional — Ashjian said in an interview Thursday, adding more spice to a hot race that shows just how worried the Republicans are about the Tea Party of Nevada candidate siphoning votes from the Tea Party Express darling.

If white-hot comments about autism and incendiary comments about hot senators aren't crazy enough for you, how about that D.C. lawyer on tape calling Ashjian "a whack job" and Angle meeting with him at the home of the Republican who was crushed by Harry Reid in 2004?

If I hadn't heard the voice mails and talked to everyone involved, I wouldn't believe it myself. But here's what happened, according to what I have pieced together:

Sometime last week, Sid James, the titular head of the Tea Party of Nevada, talked to an Angle supporter, who wished to remain anonymous, and they had a conversation about Ashjian hurting Angle's chances to defeat Reid. So the Angle operative called Cleta Mitchell, a bigfoot D.C. lawyer with experience in many campaigns and who is helping Tea Party darling Christine O'Donnell in Delaware, too.

What followed next is too weird to be true.

Mitchell talked to James, who then called Ashjian. That's where the stories begin to diverge.

"She threatened and bullied me," Ashjian claimed. "She told me she wanted me to withdraw as a candidate because I was helping Harry Reid. I told her, 'Obviously you haven't read The Wall Street Journal.'"

That was a reference to a recent piece in the national newspaper, a profile of Ashjian he seems quite proud of.

"She kept repeating to me, 'If I'm in the race, Sharron can't win. I am ruining it for them.' She wanted me to do the right thing and step aside."

Ashjian added, "Nobody can get me out of this race but me. As goofy as it sounds, you're going to see in the next few weeks, the race is between Harry Reid and Scott Ashjian."

Actually, that sounds more than goofy; it sounds downright insane.

Which is, in a nutshell, what Mitchell said about Ashjian when I talked to her late Thursday, sentiments she repeated in voice mails I obtained in which she emphasizes the importance of Ashjian endorsing Angle but also derides him as an egomaniacal loon.

"He had a list of demands and wanted us to get litigation dropped," Mitchell said (denied by Ashjian). "By the end of the conversation, I thought this was pretty crazy because this guy is nuts. I knew that this was not going anywhere."

Mitchell apparently tried to call James to tell him about the fruitless conversation, but dialed a wrong number (twice) and left some tart voice mails that I have posted on my blog.

Mitchell told me she didn't bother telling Team Angle about the conversation because she thought it was a waste of time for Angle to meet with Ashjian, as she claimed he demanded. (Ashjian says he was asked to meet with Angle.)

But Angle, who probably would meet with just about anyone, met with Ashjian for an hour Wednesday evening at Richard Ziser's home — you may remember him as the author of the anti-gay marriage amendment who lost in a landslide to Reid in 2004. But Ashjian said he has no interest in getting out and told Angle so.

Angle's campaign confirmed the meeting late Thursday.

Said spokesman Jarrod Agen: "Ashjian's team approached our campaign and asked for a meeting with Sharron because they thought that his candidacy was helping Harry Reid. Sharron agreed to meet with him and made it clear that any vote not for Sharron Angle is a vote for Harry Reid."

But did Angle try to get Ashjian to relent and endorse her? "She said she'd appreciate his support same as she would say to anyone else."

Well, not quite anyone else. Just the guy with the big ego and big mouth who will be right below her on the alphabetized ballot and who could take enough votes to cost her the race. Or at least that's the possibility Team Angle and Mitchell considered this week, giving Ashjian a chance to look important and them to look scared.

"I'll invite you to Charlie Palmer's in D.C. for the victory party," Ashjian told me.

My question: I wonder if he'll be invited.

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