SALT LAKE CITY — A former third-party presidential candidate is challenging Senator Mike Lee, who is up for re-election next year.
Evan McMullin, who leapt onto the national stages as a third-party candidate for president in 2016, made his plan official Tuesday morning.
The Salt Lake Tribune’s Robert Gehrke reported Monday that the one-time independent presidential candidate was readying a run for Senate. McMullin made it official with a press release and launch video on Tuesday morning.
America has reached a crossroads. Extremism, division and conspiracy now threaten our quality of life and democratic republic. In Utah, we have a better way. It's more compassionate, selfless and independent. That's why I'm running to represent Utah in the U.S. Senate. Join us! pic.twitter.com/4DSS8jEeP9— Evan McMullin 🇺🇸 (@EvanMcMullin) October 5, 2021
McMullin is a BYU grad and former CIA officer who was an unknown in 2016. Nationally, he only received one half of one percent of the vote, but at home in Utah, McMullin garnered 21% of the vote. Historically independent candidates in Utah typically receive less than 5% of the vote.
Five years later, with more name recognition, could McMullin have a chance against incumbent Mike Lee?
“This is a recurring question in Utah, is whether or not an independent candidate can mount a successful campaign," said Jason Perry, the Director of Hinckley Institute of Politics. "He has followers from around the country, what he needs is followers from the state of Utah and for those followers to translate to voters who actually show up.”
Three in 10 voters in Utah are unaffiliated, or not registered as Democrat or Republican. Perry says McMullin will have to mobilize the unaffiliated voters in order to represent Utah in the Senate.
Senator Lee, who first took office in 2011, has strong support among the GOP base. In February of 2021, a Hinckley Institute poll showed Lee with 67 percent approval from the Republican party.
FOX13 reached out to Senator Mike Lee for comment but were told he was unavailable.