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Evan McMullin running as independent against Sen. Mike Lee in 2022

Evan McMullin (KUTV)
Evan McMullin (KUTV)
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In 2016, he was running for president as an outsider who had a chance, albeit slim, at the White House.

Evan McMullin, a newcomer to politics, ultimately finished the race with 21% of the vote in Utah and .4% nationally. The former CIA agent found a spot in Utah politics as an independent when many voters felt like they couldn’t morally support Donald Trump as president.

Flashforward to 2021 and McMullin is banking on the idea that the Utahn’s who backed him as president will give him a chance in the Senate.

The former presidential candidate and CIA agent announced his run on Twitter Tuesday morning.

“America has reached a crossroads," he wrote on social media. "Extremism, division and conspiracy now threaten our quality of life and democratic republic. In Utah, we have a better way. It's more compassionate, selfless and independent. That's why I'm running to represent Utah in the U.S. Senate. Join us!”

He sat down Tuesday afternoon to talk about why he’s running, what he’s been doing the past few years and why he deserves Utah’s vote.

Bottom line, “politics is broken in America, and we have to make a change,” he said.

The country as he sees it is more divided now than ever, the problems even bigger.

He said he's spent the last four years working to create a political middle ground, voicing opposition to the Trump administration and voting for President Joe Biden. In May he helped in the release of a political manifesto, “A Call for American Renewal,” signed by 150 members and former members of the Republican party looking to form a new center right party.

He’s running as an independent because he thinks that’s what the country needs, including “leaders (from both sides) who will unify across the aisle.”

Running against Sen. Mike Lee in a primary wasn’t an option. McMullin said he believes Lee will likely be re-nominated by the Republican party, leaving “many Republicans poorly represented.”

He doesn’t see Democrats beating him and that’s where he sees himself, hoping he can convince Utah’s large group of independents, democrats and more centrist Republicans to vote for him.

“I do think if independents, democrats and republicans who want to see a change in our politics unite, we can send better more effective and unifying leadership to Washington that will do more for Utah and will be more effective in getting this country on track."

He pointed to Utah issues that need to be solved on a national level, brining both Democrats and Republicans to the table.

“Our children’s soccer games were cancelled because the air quality was worse than anywhere else in the world," he said.

The coming election will be “a crossroads” where McMullin said he believes there will be a choice to keep heading in the same direction or figure out a new way to “govern ourselves.”

If he were in Congress right now, he said he would vote to raise the debt ceiling. But that comes with a caveat.

“We have to get our debt under control," he said. "Our national debt is $30 trillion dollars, and that means the interest on the debt alone is crowding out other things we need to spend money on.”

He said he blames both Republicans and Democrats for the burgeoning debt and believes it will take everyone to move the needle back. Asked if he’d vote for Biden’s “Human Infrastructure” and Democrats current pitch of $3.5 million dollars, his answer is no.

“The reality is we can’t afford it, and so we have to think strategically about what provides the most value to our country and invest in those things and do it over time," he said. "That is the most responsible approach.”

READ MORE: Evan McMullin fails to make the presidential shake up in Utah some Republicans hoped for

McMullin has spent time on Capitol Hill, advising on issues of national security.

He “volunteered to serve overseas undercover after 9-11,” and it was his job “to track down terrorists who already attacked Americans and allies and were preparing to do again."

"I risked my life on a daily basis,” he said, adding with that comes experience.

“Withdrawal from Afghanistan was going to be messy — it didn’t need to be that messy," McMullin said.

The end to the 20-year war was “an example of letting politics determine national security policies at a level that went too far.”

For those wondering if the former CIA agent and presidential candidate is ready to fight specifically for Utahns, he said Utah is home and always has been.

“I was born here, educated here, I met the woman of my dreams here,” McMullin said. He is now raising a family after getting married June 2 at Sundance Resort and becoming an instant dad to five children who lost their father to cancer.

McMullin has an uphill battle in an already crowded race. He’s running against two-term Lee who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee and won his last election with 68% of the vote.

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Lee will face at least two others in a primary runoff. Former Utah State Rep. Becky Edwards and Ally Isom, former Chief of Staff for Governor Herbert, are also running to challenge the senator.

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