Independent hunts for presidential voters

Evan McMullin says he offers conservative alternative

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DES MOINES — Evan McMullin wants voters to reject the notion they would be wasting their vote by supporting a third-party candidate in the presidential election.

The conservative independent and former CIA counterterrorism and intelligence official traveled through Iowa on Thursday, conducting media interviews and greeting campaign volunteers to spread awareness of and support for his presidential campaign.

McMullin’s presidential bid is, at best, a long shot. But, like other third-party candidates Gary Johnson, a Libertarian, and Jill Stein of the Green Party, he is courting the significant percentage of voters who say they are dissatisfied with the major-party options: Republican Donald Trump or Democrat Hillary Clinton.

“We have been sold the lesser-of-two-evils argument by the parties for a long, long time. And I believe that degrades the value of our votes,” McMullin said Thursday in an interview with the Gazette-Lee Des Moines Bureau. “Our votes are our voices. And I believe that we need to stand for good, stand for good leadership, with our voices. Because if we don’t, we won’t get it.

“A Catholic clergyman was quoted the other day saying, ‘Keep in mind that if you vote for the lesser of two evils, you’re still voting for evil.’ So I just think that we’ve got to vote our conscience in these elections.”

McMullin, who worked in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia in the years shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, describes his ideology as “original conservatism” founded in individual liberty. He said is anti-abortion, supports gun ownership rights and is convinced the United States should show strong military leadership in the world. The United States also should engage and enlist allies so the country is not always on the financial hook for overseas conflicts, he said.

McMullin jumped into the presidential race five weeks ago, but he said his candidacy can influence the election. He said he thinks he can win his home state of Utah and potentially tilt the final results if Clinton and Trump wind up locked in an electoral tie in other states.

In such a case, the president would be chosen in the U.S. House of Representatives. Each state would have one vote.

In two recent polls in Utah, McMullin said he received was favored by 9 percent of those polled. While that is better than he fares in most other states — in some, polls do not include him among the choices — it is well behind Trump at about 40 percent and Clinton at about 25 percent, but right behind Johnson. He has slightly more than 10 percent of the vote.

McMullin said he joins the two-thirds of American voters who say they are not satisfied with the choices of presidential candidates, according to recent Pew Research national polling. He called Trump “a true authoritarian” and “a true threat to our democracy” and said Clinton also would “do enormous damage to this country.”

“They’re both terribly corrupt, and we need better in this country. We really need better,” McMullin said. “That’s what we hope to offer in this election.”

l Comments: (515) 422-9061; erin.murphy@lee.net

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