Evan McMullin, who launched an ill-fated third-party bid for president in 2016, announced Tuesday he will wage an independent challenge to Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeCawthorn, Lee introduce bills banning interstate travel vaccine mandate Retreating economy creates new hurdle for Democrats in 2022 McConnell vows GOP won't help raise debt ceiling in December after Schumer 'tantrum' MORE (R) in Utah’s Senate race next year.
McMullin, a CIA veteran and self-proclaimed government reform advocate, is centering his campaign around ending the rife partisanship in Washington after spending years criticizing both Democrats and Republicans for a lack of compromise and cooperation.
"Our politics are broken," McMullin said in a statement announcing his campaign. "And it's putting our country in danger. We need leaders who will unite rather than divide. Washington has left us so polarized that we’re failing to overcome major problems facing the nation and it has to change."
McMullin also released a launch video in which he highlighted his service in the CIA after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and underscored the crises facing the country.
“America has reached another crossroads, our streets on fire and our temple of democracy desecrated,” he said over images of violent protests and the Jan. 6 insurrection. “The extremes in Washington don’t represent Utah. They prevent us from governing ourselves, and they jeopardize our democracy. The result is crisis after crisis that never gets solved.”
“But here at home, we have a better way. The Utah way. It's more compassionate, selfless and independent. The kind of leadership that sticks to principle but still finds common ground to solve problems,” he continued. “I’m not running as a Republican or a Democrat but as a patriot committed to defending our nation.”
McMullin brings with him deep ties to Utah. His ancestors, who were Mormon, fled west to escape religious persecution, and McMullin later served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Brazil and received his bachelor's degree from Brigham Young University.
While his 2016 bid failed to catch on nationally, McMullin ultimately took about 21 percent of the vote in Utah. After his defeat, he co-founded Stand Up Republic, a nonprofit “focused on uniting Americans across party lines around founding ideals.”
McMullin will face stiff headwinds waging a third-party bid against Lee, who has coasted to election in both 2010 and 2016 with over 60 percent of the vote. It is also historically difficult for a third-party candidate to knock off an incumbent senator.
Former Utah lawmaker Becky Edwards and political strategist Ally Isom are challenging Lee in the GOP primary.