SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin had never run for any political office, until he decided to make a bid for the highest office in the country.
The impetus behind the bold idea: give conservative voters an alternative to Republican Donald Trump's firebrand candidacy. McMullin is not on the ballot in enough states to win the White House, but could take Utah's electoral votes.
A look at some things to know about him.
McMullin, 40, was mainly an afterthought when he announced in early August he was running for president. Within weeks, however, his message of a new, compassionate conservative movement apparently began to catch on in Utah, where most people share McMullin's Mormon faith and many disdain Trump.
McMullin is now crowding Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton in Utah, polls suggest. He could become the first independent candidate to win electoral votes in nearly a half century. He also hopes for respectable showings in Idaho and Wyoming.
McMullin's strategy hinges on bringing GOP-leaning voters his way by calling Trump a racist who uses bigoted rhetoric and has torn apart Republican Party ideals. He sticks mainly to broad ideas about the principles of welcoming conservatives of all races and religions, and he rarely delves into detailed policies.
McMullin is on the ballot in 11 states.
Born in Provo, in the heartland of Mormon country, McMullin spent his childhood in a rural area of Washington outside Seattle. He did a two-year Mormon mission in Brazil, then returned to Utah to earn a degree in international law and diplomacy at the Mormon church-owned Brigham Young University.
He spent 11 years in the CIA doing counterterrorism work before leaving the agency to get a master's in business administration from the Wharton School of Business. McMullin briefly worked in investment banking. He became a national security adviser for the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee.
He was working as the chief policy director for U.S. House Republicans when he decided to launch his campaign and present a conservative alternative to Trump.
McMullin asks people to look beyond this election, which he thinks Clinton will win, and cast a vote that will send a message to the country that conservatives won't stand for the Republican Party of Trump. McMullin and running mate Mindy Finn, a former Republican strategist, say they are open to becoming part of a new party if necessary.
McMullin considers himself a national security expert, and calls for rebuilding the military by spending more to train and outfit troops. He favors strong alliances and confronting threats that may include violations of human rights by dictators.
MOMENT TO REMEMBER
As McMullin emerged as a threat to Trump in Utah, critics started taking jabs. Fox Business Network's Lou Dobbs tweeted recently: "Look Deeper, He's nothing but a Globalist, Romney and Mormon Mafia Tool." That led to the creation of a popular social media hashtag, #MormonMafia, and lots of jokes from Mormons about their supposed time in the Mafia. Many shared old missionary photos of them looking nerdy. McMullin tweeted: "The strength of @TeamMcMullin is that we're the #MormonMafia...& the Jewish, Catholic, Evangelical, Hindu, Muslim, or no Mafia Mafias!"
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