- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 5, 2010

LAS VEGAS | The chairman of the Tea Party of Nevada resigned Tuesday after a recording was made public capturing Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle bad-mouthing GOP leaders during a meeting with the shadowy group’s own Senate candidate.

The exit of Chairman Syd James is another blow to the candidacy of Tea Party of Nevada nominee Scott Ashjian, who has been denounced by state tea-party leaders, who say he has no connection to the movement, which advocates limited government and tightfisted public spending.

In a statement, Mr. James said he was endorsing Mrs. Angle, whose uneasy relations with national Republicans were laid bare in the tape, which Mr. Ashjian recorded secretly and later released to the Las Vegas Sun newspaper.

Mr. James said he arranged the meeting to see if Mr. Ashjian would consider withdrawing from the race and backing Mrs. Angle, who is in a tight race with Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in one of the highest-profile contests of the midterm elections.

“I gave the Angle campaign my word that this was to be a private meeting and not tape-recorded. I feel my personal integrity and honor was violated when Scott taped what was to be a private conversation and then made it public,” Mr. James said in a statement.

“I can understand why the Angle campaign feels that they were double-crossed,” he added.

Mrs. Angle has the support of national and local tea-party groups, but Mr. Ashjian’s candidacy threatened to drain votes away from her, which would help Mr. Reid in a close race. Several minor-party candidates are on the ballot - a recent poll showed Mr. Ashjian with just 1 percent support - and Nevada voters also can choose “none of these candidates.”

In the recording, Mrs. Angle, a former state lawmaker, tells Mr. Ashjian, “I’m not sure you can win, and I’m not sure I can win if you’re hurting my chance, and that’s the part that scares me.”

She laments that the national GOP leaders have “lost their standards, they’ve lost their principles.” Many in the national party openly preferred former state GOP Chairwoman Sue Lowden in the June primary but have since rallied behind Mrs. Angle’s campaign.

Mrs. Angle in the tape refers derisively to “that good-ol’-boy thing” and depicts herself as an underdog David fighting Goliath - the constricting machinery of the national party.