Article published Friday, October 29, 2010, at The National Review.

Democrats Embarrassed by Campaign Tricks

By John R. Lott, Jr.

From New Jersey to Pennsylvania to Nevada, Democrats have placed fake Tea Party candidates on the ballot in order to split the Republican vote. In many of these races, the Tea Party candidate’s percentage in the polls exceeds the margin between the Republican and Democratic candidates.

Just last week, the Democratic congressional candidate in the Pennsylvania 7th, Bryan Lentz, finally admitted to the Delaware County Daily Times editorial board that without his help, independent candidate Jim Schneller would not have gotten on the ballot. In a debate this summer, Lentz denied having anything to do with Schneller’s appearing on the ballot, and in August, Schneller told PoliticsPA that the rumors that Lentz had gotten him on the ballot were simply an attempt to discredit his candidacy.

The Philadelphia Daily News called a mid-October campaign debate between Lentz and Schneller “farcical.” The charade had Bryan Lentz and the candidate that Lentz got on the ballot, Schneller, both attacking the Republican nominee, Patrick Meehan. Meehan didn’t think such a debate was fair and refused to participate; Lentz attacked Meehan as afraid to “face the voters.”

Schneller is only polling at 1 or 2 percent, but the latest poll of the race by Franklin & Marshall (10/5–10/11) gives Meehan just a three-point lead over Lentz. A slightly earlier poll by The Hill gave Meehan only a one-point lead. Lentz’s shenanigans could well determine the outcome of this race.

Part of Lentz’s defense: “I think that it is important to make the distinction that there are places in the country this year where Democrats had a cup of coffee with someone and said, ‘Why don’t you put your name on the ballot?’ That is absolutely not the situation here.” No, in this case Lentz’s staff helped Schneller collect signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Meanwhile, in Florida, the Orlando Sentinel has reported on links between the Florida Tea Party and inflammatory congressman Alan Grayson (D., Fla.). Among the ties: Doug Guetzloe, a Florida Tea Party co-founder, served on an advisory panel for Grayson, and Guetzloe’s son interned for him.

New Jersey’s Courier Post ran a headline announcing that “Dems picked spoiler candidate.” With internal polls showing freshman Rep. John Adler losing to possible Republican challengers by about five points, Democrats apparently “recruited [Peter DeStefano, a picture framer from Mount Laurel] to run as a third-party candidate.”

In Nevada, the Real Clear Politics average of surveys showed Republican Sharron Angle leading Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid by only 1.8 percentage points as of Thursday morning. But Scott Ashjian, the U.S. Senate Tea Party candidate, was getting 7 percent of likely voters according to an October CNN/Opinion Research poll.

Cleta Mitchell, a prominent Washington GOP lawyer who is working for Angle’s campaign, has stated that Ashjian’s presence on the ballot is “costing Sharron the election.” Ashjian had no history of involvement in the Tea Party movement before placing his name on the ballot. As Mark Williams, the chairman of the Tea Party Express, noted in one ad, “None of us has ever heard of you.”

Some other attempts by Democrats to place fake Tea Party candidates on the ballot have failed. But the secrecy of these efforts clearly shows that Democrats find their actions embarrassing. The national media has ignored these frauds. If Harry Reid or some of these other candidates squeak through to victory on November 2, questions of their legitimacy will last.

John R. Lott Jr. is a contributor. He is an economist and the author of "More Guns, Less Crime (University of Chicago Press, 2010), the third edition of which was published in May.".

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