— -- In a campaign season so venomous, so full of fury and so divisive, many voters are asking if this is all our democracy can offer.
The answer is no. There are other candidates, including one a lot of people might not have heard of, named Evan McMullin.
McMullin is a 40-year-old independent conservative candidate from Utah. He spent 10 years in the CIA, where he says he hunted down al-Qaeda leaders in the Middle East. He was also an investment banker and a House Republican staffer.
McMullin and his running mate Mindy Finn have no secret service team, no private jets.
“Actually, we use Uber a lot,” he said. “It keeps us light and flexible.”
Now, he’s running for president because, he said, he believes “we just need better leaders in this country.”
“We stand for the fact that we’re the only conservatives in this race and we stand for the fundamental ideals that have made this country special,” McMullin said.
It has been called reminiscent of Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”
“I’m happy with that comparison, that’s fine,” McMullin said, laughing. “We need a new era of civil engagement in which we no longer passively accept the leaders that the two major parties give us, but rather we need to seek out leaders who are honest and wise and then promote them into office proactively.”
McMullin is a bit of rock star in Utah. At a diner where the candidate stopped for lunch, several people walked up to him to shake his hand.
“It’s just nice I can live with my conscience now, with my vote,” one woman said.
But is President Evan McMullin even possible? The short answer is yes, it’s a long shot, but not completely out of the question.
“McMullin cannot win outright, but he still has a path to the presidency,” said ABC News Deputy Political Director Shushannah Walshe. “It starts with winning his home state of Utah and those six electoral votes and by doing that, he needs to block Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump from getting 270 electoral votes. At that point, the election would be tossed to the House of Representatives, where the Republican majority would have to pick Evan McMullin over Donald Trump.”
McMullin is still reflecting on it all. Two months ago, he said he only had 130 Twitter followers. Now, he has almost 82,000.
“When you have people who are stepping up and engaging online and otherwise to support this campaign, it’s humbling,” he said.
McMullin is also campaigning hard in Idaho and taking aim at Wyoming. Though he is only on the ballot in 11 states, his slogan is, “It’s never too late to do the right thing.”
In most ways, McMullin is a staunch, classic Republican conservative. He opposes Obamacare, he’s for tax cuts over tax hikes and he’s a national security hawk and a pro-life candidate who wants Supreme Court justices to overturn Roe vs. Wade. But he says he is more inclusive.
“We are also offering the American people a new generation of leadership, which I think is sorely needed,” he said. “And also a new conservative movement, a conservative movement that welcomes people of different races and religions into the fold.”
And a key constituency in Utah is the Mormon vote.
“In the Church of Jesus Christ Latterday Saints there are specific teachings about the leaders that one should search for in casting their ballot,” said Hal Boyd, the opinion editor for the Deseret News, a Salt Lake City-based newspaper. “And in Scripture you have the words that leaders who are good, wise and honest should be sought for and upheld.”
In Draper, Utah, a booming Salt Lake City suburb, a few hundred people filed into a high school gymnasium for an Evan McMullin rally, all enthusiastic for McMullin’s message.
“He’s the man,” said one rally-goer. “When he first came out with his presidential bid and we were looking for somebody we weren’t excited about anybody and right from the get-go we liked Evan McMullin.”
Supporters lined up to get a picture with the candidate and his running mate -- all potential voters for this political rock star in the making.
“I didn’t know a lot about them,” said rally-goer Kate Cannon. “I wanted to get a better feel and hear straight from his mouth what he’s all about, and I’m leaving a lot more hopeful than when I came, so I’m actually very pleasantly surprised.”