Evan McMullin Wants to Bring 'Utah Way' to Washington's 'Broken Politics'

Evan McMullin wants to be next U.S. senator from the state of Utah and he's facing a substantial challenge in the conservative state in the form of incumbent Republican Senator Mike Lee.

McMullin served as a CIA operations officer and later policy director for House Republicans, but he's perhaps best known for his independent run for president in 2016 and his strong criticism of former President Donald Trump.

In an interview with Newsweek, McMullin took aim at divisiveness in Washington, D.C., and explained that his Senate campaign is based firmly upon defending American democracy.

"Our politics are broken in America where we're failing to solve major challenges that are mounting," McMullin said.

"Whether they be the high cost of healthcare or poor air quality or lack of water, which we're experiencing here in Utah - obviously the pandemic and exploding national debt, which is contributing to inflation now, making it very difficult for middle class families and for families who struggle."

"So we've just got to start solving these problems and we're not doing it now because our politics are so broken," McMullin said. "The extremes in America are stronger than they've been ever or in quite some time. And they pull our parties apart and therefore parties can't find common ground and use that to advance policy solutions.

"And we're weakening as a country. And I believe our country's falling behind because of this, but also our state here in Utah."

The Utah Way

McMullin said that national challenges were beginning to make life difficult in his home state, but that Utah could also play a major role in finding national solutions.

"And we have a different way of leadership here in Utah," McMullin said. "We refer to it affectionately as the Utah Way. And what it is, is a way of leadership that holds to principal but still finds common ground to solve problems."

"And I think it has a lot to do with our history as a people - as a state. My ancestors came to what is now Utah over 150 years ago," he said.

McMullin pointed to the history of Utah, including settlement in the region by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the same church McMullin belongs to.

"America needs Utah's leadership," he told Newsweek. "America needs this kind of leadership that will, yes, still hold the principle, but find common ground to solve problems. We just can't afford to do anything less than that."

Broken Politics

McMullin's campaign is in essence a challenge to Senator Mike Lee. A conservative Republican, Lee won the 2016 Senate election with more than 68 percent of the vote.

But McMullin made clear he was also challenging the "broken politics" of Washington, D.C.

McMullin told Newsweek that Lee "does not reflect Utah's values."

"He doesn't reflect our way of leadership and because of that, our state and our nation are suffering," he said. "And so, yes, that's why I'm running to replace him because I don't think that he represents the best of Utah.

"More typically, he represents Washington's broken politics. He spends more of his time dividing people and engaging in performative obstructionism than he does finding solutions to all of the challenges that face our state and our country."

McMullin pointed to Utah's "rough summer" and environmental issues in the state as well as other bread-and-butter issues that he said Washington needs to tackle.

"Your children's soccer games were canceled. You couldn't go hiking. If you wanted to take your kayak to the reservoir, you would arrive and there'd be no water left in the reservoir," he explained.

"Meanwhile, inflation is making everything much more expensive," McMullin went on.

"I mean, if your car breaks down and you've got to buy a new car, it's far more expensive to do it now than before, but set that aside. If you're just going to buy food at the grocery store or you're going to a fast food restaurant, all of that costs more now and that's on top of healthcare costs that are just sky high, costing families thousands of dollars every month, just for emergency healthcare coverage, really. That's where we are."

Easy to Divide

McMullin said there was "a realization in Utah, but also elsewhere in the country that we just cannot afford to have these divisive leaders anymore."

"The easiest thing in the world to do as a politician is to divide people and demonize the other side and then claim that you're the answer to the ill will posed by the other side to your side, that's the easiest thing to do, but it leads to nowhere good for the country," he said.

McMullin said divisiveness "holds us back and it leaves us vulnerable to all kinds of challenges, whether it be a pandemic or a foreign adversary or, or whatever. So we just can't afford to do it to do that any longer."

"And I think we're very much experiencing that in Utah and we need a new kind of leadership. And I just believe that the answer is in this better type of leadership that we have in Utah that other leaders from our state embody. And, and there's no reason why we, we, in fact, we need both of our senators to take this approach to leadership because that is what serves our interest. And we just have to have somebody there fighting for results, not obstructionism," McMullin said.

Founding Values

McMullin told Newsweek he was a lifelong conservative who had been attracted to the principled conservatives in the Republican Party. He cited Abraham Lincoln as a personal hero, but also offered criticism of today's GOP.

"I think the Republican party has unfortunately - its leadership rather - has abandoned our founding values as a country and, I think the party's own founding values," he said.

"That has made it less competitive than it could be in elections," McMullin said.

"And because of that, many party leaders, instead of urging a recommitment to our values, are now trying to impede free and fair elections and erode people's confidence in elections because that's the way they think they can hold on or regain power.

"And I think that that is a mistake. I think it's a mistake for the party and more importantly, it's damaging to the country. And I hope that the Republican party recommits to its own founding values, but also the fundamental ideals that are in enshrined in our Declaration of Independence," he said.

Defending Democracy

McMullin hopes Republican leaders will take his advice but in the meantime, he's committed to fighting for American democracy. He believes there's common ground and he's asking those who agree with him to "stand together."

"That's what we're doing in Utah," he told Newsweek. "We're inviting Republicans, Democrats, and independents who agree that we've got to defend our democratic republic. We're inviting them to join us.

"And yes, are there differences between us? Very much so. Is there common ground that is unrealized and unrecognized and unused in the advancement of solutions for the American people? That's also true.

"And that's part of what we're doing too, is finding that common ground so that we can advance solutions. But even before that, we've got to defend and strengthen our democratic republic in order to preserve it and in order to allow us to solve these other problems in a sustainable, effective way. And so that's what we're fighting for in Utah," McMullin said.

Independent of Extremes

McMullin said that if he is elected to the Senate, it will be because of the people of Utah.

"When I say that I'm an independent, what I'm saying is that I'm independent of the extremes," McMullin said. "I'm independent of party bosses, independent of special interests, of the powerful special interests outside of Utah, but I am not independent, or will not be independent, of Utahns.

"I want to be accountable to Utahns and Utahns alone," he went on. "And that's the kind of leadership that I think our state needs. And I think the country needs.

"I'm not going there to represent myself, I'm going there to represent Utahns - and not just some Utahns and not the other Utahns, but all Utahns. I'm going there to represent all Utahns and to do, and to uphold my oath to the country, which if elected all, I'll take there," McMullin said.

Evan McMullin Speaks on Election Night 2016
U.S. Independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin waits to speak to supporters at an election night party on November 8, 2016, in Salt Lake City, Utah. McMullin is running for the U.S. Senate in Utah in 2022. George Frey/Getty Images