- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 19, 2014

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - Several tea party groups in Montana are denying any affiliation with U.S. House candidate Drew Turiano, who has said he was turned away from a Yellowstone County Republican dinner because he was member of the tea party.

The Montana Tea Party Coalition issued a statement Tuesday saying it surveyed its 17 member organizations and said that none had seen Turiano at any of their events or meetings.

Turiano tells Lee Newspapers of Montana that he calls himself a tea party Republican because he believes in their philosophy.

“We encourage people who believe in our values of constitutionally limited government, free markets and fiscal accountability to get involved in the political process,” said Jay Anderson, of Helena, a member of the coalition’s media committee. “However, being a candidate and in agreement with some of our principles is a far cry from being a ‘tea party’ candidate.”

Yellowstone County Republican Party chairwoman Jennifer Owen said the party didn’t let Turiano speak at its Lincoln-Reagan dinner last weekend because the party had “no intention of allowing him a platform to spread hate and intolerance.”

Turiano said Owen may have been offended by his support for deporting all immigrants living in the country illegally and their American-born children. Turiano also expressed concern that white Americans will become a small minority in coming decades.

Turiano issued a statement Tuesday thanking Owen and Republican Party constituents “for causing me to become more aware of the direction I unwittingly paved.”

He said he “came on too strong” when announcing his candidacy and that his statements were misunderstood.

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