Nevada Tea Party Leader Quits After Tape Flap, Endorses Angle

The head of the Tea Party of Nevada threw his support behind Republican Sharron Angle and resigned Tuesday after a recording was made public capturing the Tea Party darling dissing GOP leaders during a meeting with the shadowy group's U.S. Senate candidate.

The now former chairman, Syd James, said in a statement that he was endorsing Angle after Tea Party of Nevada nominee Scott Ashjian secretly recorded a meeting with Angle that he later released to the Las Vegas Sun newspaper.

James' departure from the party is another setback to the candidacy of Ashjian, who has been denounced by state Tea Party leaders who say he has no connection to the conservative grassroots movement that advocates limited government and tight-fisted public spending.

James and Ashjian reportedly established the Tea Party of Nevada this year so Ashjian could run for the Senate. But the Tea Party Express, a national political committee that is supporting Angle, has called the group a fake.

James had arranged the meeting between the candidates, he said, because he wanted to see whether Ashjian would consider withdrawing from the race and backing Angle, who is trying to oust Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

"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," James said in a statement.

The recording laid bare Angle's uneasy relations with national Republicans.

"I can understand why the Angle campaign feels that they were double-crossed. The Angle campaign trusted me and that trust was violated," James added.

Angle has the support of national and local Tea Party groups, but Ashjian's candidacy threatened to drain votes away from her, which would help Reid in a close race. There are several minor-party candidates on the ballot -- a recent poll showed Ashjian with just 1 percent support -- and Nevada voters can also choose "none of these candidates."

In the recording, Angle tells 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 GOP leaders have "lost their standards, they've lost their principles." She refers derisively to "that good old boy thing" and depicts herself as an underdog David fighting Goliath -- the constricting machinery of the national party.

On the tape, Ashjian complains his reputation has been unjustly damaged in the campaign. He grumbles about the Tea Party Express, a national political committee that ran ads this year questioning his credentials and supporting Angle. He declines to support her.

It's unclear who will succeed James as the leader of the obscure party that has done little fundraising or organizing so far and has been blasted by Republicans as a Democratic plant.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.