Pa. Democrat admits helping Tea Party candidate

A Pennsylvania Democratic House candidate on Tuesday admitted to helping a third candidate get on the ballot in the hopes he would siphon votes away from his Republican opponent. 

Bryan Lentz, the Democratic nominee running for the seat being vacated by Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.), said he knew that volunteers from his campaign helped Tea Party candidate Jim Schneller.

"If somebody's already made the decision to run, I didn't think that 'helping' with the process of signature petitions was improper," Lentz told told the Delaware County Daily Times editorial board in an interview.

Republicans have accused Democrats of helping set up Tea Party candidates as spoilers in several House and Senate races around the country. Democrats face a tough political environment this fall, when they are trying to maintain their congressional majorities against a GOP wave spurred in part by Tea Party groups.

Lentz said he could not remember when he learned of his volunteers' work on behalf of Schneller, but he said, "I didn't think it was a bad thing for the process or for my candidacy."

Republican nominee Pat Meehan and Lentz are locked in a tight race; The Hill's 2010 Midterm Election Poll last week showed that Meehan is narrowly leading Lentz, 40 percent to 39.

Meehan's campaign responded to Lentz's claim in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

"It's about time Bryan Lentz would admit what the media has been reporting on for months," said Meehan campaign manager Bryan Kendro. "Despite his efforts to fool voters about his role in supporting Schneller's candidacy, he was forced to come clean, and he should apologize for not being forthright."

Lentz stressed, however, that his campaign's activities on behalf of Schneller, who has filed a lawsuit questioning President Obama's citizenship, began after the Tea Partier began his campaign.

"I did not encourage him to run for office," he said. "He made that decision on his own."