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Nevada tea party group endorses Jim Gibbons, John Chachas

Updated Friday, May 28, 2010 | 5:15 p.m.

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Gov. Jim Gibbons speaks to the media on May 14, 2010.

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John Chachas speaks during a debate among the Republican U.S. Senate candidates on "Face to Face with Jon Ralston" at the KVBC studios in Las Vegas Tuesday, May 18, 2010.

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No one can accuse Action is Brewing of jumping on the frontrunners' bandwagon.

Choosing principle over the pragmatic option of picking candidates favored to win in polls, a Nevada group identified with the tea party movement endorsed underdog candidates Gov. Jim Gibbons and U.S. Senate candidate John Chachas this week. Action is Brewing, which had been known as Anger is Brewing, is considered one of the largest tea party movement groups in the state, with more than 6,000 members.

Debbie Landis, founder of the group, said the group endorsed candidates based on who members thought would make the best elected leaders.

Voters "have been getting into trouble sticking to candidates we think can win and this idea of winning and losing," she said. "We wanted to look at people for their skill sets and their character. Maybe we're idiots and wasting our breath, but we honest to goodness made our recommendations for the taxpaying population of Nevada."

Both Chachas and Gibbons trail significantly in all polls.

The increasingly tight Republican primary to face Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid seems to be among three candidates -- none of them named Chachas.

A Las Vegas Review-Journal poll this morning puts former Assemblywoman Sharron Angle and former GOP chairwoman Sue Lowden in a statistical dead heat. Businessman Danny Tarkanian is in third place, and Chachas, a Wall Street investment banker, polling 2 percent, is in fifth, behind Assemblyman Chad Christensen.

For the first time, Reid is in a statistical dead heat with the leading GOP candidates.

Lowden has lost her significant lead over the past month, while Angle has surged in the polls. Angle has been helped by getting endorsements from national groups like the Tea Party Express and the Club for Growth. Angle, who many consider to be the most conservative of the contenders, has promoted her endorsement by the Tea Party Express and described herself as the tea party movement's candidate. Lowden, a casino owner with significant backing from the GOP establishment, has also claimed affinity for tea party movement supporters.

With Action is Brewing not endorsing Angle, the tension between the national Tea Party Express group and many of the local activists could be highlighted. When the Tea Party Express endorsed, there was a feeling among some activists that national groups were trying to meddle with Nevada issues.

Landis said Angle "is not a warrior. Not a problem solver ... we need somebody with the problem-solving skills, the intellectual capacity to craft solutions." Landis also criticized Lowden for her tenure as GOP chairwoman during the 2008 cycle, when the party base became bitterly divided.

"I do believe the Action is Brewing endorsements are intellectually honest," said Ryan Erwin, a political consultant advising Chachas. "There was an eye toward purity and process as much as toward the political game."

The Tea Party Express defended its endorsement of Angle, saying it has more members and supporters in Nevada than any other group and has held more tea party rallies in the state than any other organization.

Levi Russell, spokesman for the group based in Sacramento, said the Tea Party Express has spent $400,000 recently promoting Angle.

“In all of our discussion with tea party activists throughout Nevada it was clear Sharron Angle was the favorite,” Russell said. “The only question was whether she would be able to get the money and name recognition to be a viable contender.”

Russell acknowledged that Reid and Democrats continue to focus their attacks on Lowden – a sign, Lowden supporters argue, that Reid fears her most.

Russell blamed that on a “slow response time on their part. Sharron surging in the polls surprised a lot of people.”

Gibbons' re-election campaign, which is facing former federal judge Brian Sandoval, also touted the endorsement of the conservative group Grassroots Nevada. “This support will help stop the candidates who pretend to be conservative," Gibbons said in a statement.

Gibbons has in campaign press releases sought to question Sandoval's conservative credentials. He hasn't had enough campaign money to run television ads, seen as essential in winning a statewide race. Instead, Sandoval has been attacked by a political action group funded by Democratic supporters. The gubernatorial primary winner will face Democrat Rory Reid, a Clark County commissioner and son of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Action is Brewing also made endorsements in a number of Republican primaries. A full list can be found here.

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