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Colorado ‘never-Trump’ conservatives rally for Evan McMullin

Author: Adam McCoy - October 23, 2016 - Updated: October 24, 2016

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Carrying campaign signs and hawking campaign literature, a modest group of about 20 supporters of independent candidate for president Evan McMullin held a rally for the candidate on downtown Denver's 16th Street Mall Saturday afternoon. (Photo by Adam McCoy/The Colorado Statesman)
Carrying campaign signs and hawking campaign literature, a modest group of about 20 supporters of independent candidate for president Evan McMullin held a rally for the candidate on downtown Denver’s 16th Street Mall Saturday afternoon. (Photo by Adam McCoy/The Colorado Statesman)

Exchanges started predictably with, “who is Evan McMullin?” Saturday afternoon on Denver’s 16th Street as supporters of the independent candidate for president tried to rally excitement and educate voters on a campaign that’s a mere two months old — an infancy in the life of a presidential campaign.

Serving as a primer to an in-person visit from McMullin Tuesday at Colorado Christian University in Lakewood, the small group of about 20 marched from Union Station to the state Capitol building wielding campaign signs and hawking campaign literature.

The largely unknown candidate’s grassroots campaign in Colorado, steered by local political newcomers, has become a new home for “never-Trump” voters and disenchanted conservatives, some of whom planned on staying home on Election Day until McMullin declared his candidacy.

The campaign does have a strategy to win the White House, but with collecting 270 electoral votes an all-but impossible scenario for the McMullin team, the campaign is about bucking the binary, establishment party system and refuting the lesser of two evils argument, supporters said Saturday.

“We’ve got a terrible choice and it’s the result of generations of lesser evil choices,” campaign volunteer Tricia Anthone said. “That can only go one direction. That can only degrade our choices because every time we lower our standards yet a little bit more, in order to choose the lesser evil.”

“It has culminated in this ridiculous set of choices that face us today,” said Anthone, who is from Centennial. “We need to say that’s enough.”

A member of the Latinos for Evan McMullin group leads supporters of the Utah Mormon's campaign for president marched from Denver's Union Station to the state Capitol building trying to educate voters on the candidate Saturday afternoon. (Photo by Adam McCoy/The Colorado Statesman)
A member of the Latinos for Evan McMullin group leads supporters of the Utah Mormon’s campaign for president on a march from Denver’s Union Station to the state Capitol building, as the group attempts to educate voters on the candidate Saturday afternoon, Oct. 21, 2016. (Photo by Adam McCoy/The Colorado Statesman)

The McMullin strategy

Though he declared his candidacy just over two months ago on Aug. 8, McMullin is leading in his home state of Utah with 31 percent according to a recent Emerson College poll, though other polls have him slightly behind. A longtime Republican stronghold, Utah hasn’t selected a non-Republican candidate for president since 1964. McMullin hopes to also make noise in Idaho and Wyoming.

The Western states grab is all a part of the campaign’s strategy to win in November which includes denying major party candidates Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump the 270 electoral votes required to win the election, triggering a vote in the House of Representatives for the next president.

“If we can do it, it will take all of the power, all of the strength out of the lesser evil argument,” Anthone said. “Even if Evan McMullin doesn’t win, that will be a huge accomplishment for political freedom.”

If McMullin came in third place ahead of the Green Party’s Jill Stein and Libertarian Gary Johnson come Election Day, he would be among those considered during the House vote for president.

But voters will have to write McMullin’s name in on their ballot in most states this November, as he’ll appear printed on the ballot in just 11 states — Colorado being one of those.

McMullin for President Colorado campaign head Tom Hancock speaks to a small group of McMullin supporters during a rally Saturday afternoon, Oct. 22 in front of Denver's Union Station. (Photo by Adam McCoy/The Colorado Statesman)
McMullin for President Colorado campaign head Tom Hancock speaks to a small group of McMullin supporters during a rally Saturday afternoon, Oct. 22 in front of Denver’s Union Station. (Photo by Adam McCoy/The Colorado Statesman)

Who is Evan McMullin?

The 40-year-old McMullin spent about a decade with the Central Intelligence Agency working in counter terrorism and intelligence before transitioning into a short-lived investment banking career with Goldman Sachs. In 2013 he moved into a senior adviser role with the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and later became a chief policy director of the House Republican Conference.

McMullin has served as a Mormon missionary in Brazil and helped refugees in Amman, Jordan, for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. He’s earned a masters of business administration from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

A conservative alternative

As part of a group of conservative Latinos for McMullin, Toni Busse of Arvada said she is a longtime supporter of Republican candidates, but after she realized her major party choices were Clinton or Trump, she looked to Gary Johnson who she said just further disappointed her.

“I was going to stay home,” she said. “I thought I can’t put my name behind any of these people.”

She hopes McMullin can help further the conservative movement in the country.

Donna Fryer of Denver, said she also planned on not voting this election until McMullin declared. Once McMullin did, she immediately signed up to volunteer and contributed money to the campaign.

“I love that he’s pro-life, I love that he was in the CIA,” she said. “I hope he has a good sense on foreign policy.”

As a millennial conservative, Amber Huntington of Castle Rock said she long felt a disconnect with the GOP. The party’s problems with women and race are hard to look past.

“What Evan McMullin has started is a new movement, a new conservative movement that stands on solid principles that we are created equal and we should be able to pursue happiness as we see fit,” she said.

Tom Hancock of Denver, the McMullin Colorado campaign lead, said there’s so many voters stuck in the lesser evil mentality, and rejecting the argument is important.

“It’s so sad America has got to this spot where our awesome privilege to be able to cast a ballot, saying who we want as president has been trumped, has been preempted,” he said.

Adam McCoy

Adam McCoy

Adam McCoy covers Denver-area politics for Colorado Politics.


5 comments

  • Tricia

    October 24, 2016 at 2:32 am

    Terrific job capturing both message and meaning of the McMullin Campaign and the people supporting it!

  • Diane

    October 24, 2016 at 9:48 pm

    Great job Adam!

  • Deborah

    October 25, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    Thank you for covering this event in a fair and unbiased manner. I appreciate news that is genuinely news.

  • John S Wren

    November 13, 2016 at 2:48 pm

    “The electors normally cast their votes for the winners in their states, and are considered morally bound to do so. In most states, however, they are not legally bound, and even when they are, there seems to be no way to compel the electors to horor their pledges.

    From “The Case Against Direct Election of the President, by Judith Best

  • John S Wren

    November 13, 2016 at 2:51 pm

    The delegates to the Electorial College are appointed in various ways by each state. In Colorado the State Chair of the winning political party appoints them. The delegates vote in the Governors office on the Wednesday after the 2nd Monday of December.

    My hunch is that nearly all the delegates will end up voting for someone other than Trump, Evan would seem to me to be the obvious choice.

    My question: why is NO ONE in the media talking about this very obvious possiblity?

Comments are closed.