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Opinion: Why I am running to replace Sen. Mike Lee

We do not need the extremists, the dividers, or the self-serving opportunists who haunt the halls of Congress today.

Utah Senate candidate Evan McMullin.
Evan McMullin walks to his car after an interview in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021. McMullin is running for Sen. Mike Lee’s seat as an independent..
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

More than 150 years ago, my great-great-grandfather William Wood Sr. escaped religious persecution by crossing the Atlantic and trekking over the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains to the valley of the Great Salt Lake, which he called “the haven of our hopes.”

Many other European and American travelers had passed through the region we now call Utah before. They marveled at the stunning beauty of its snow-capped peaks, red rock canyons and stark deserts, but they quickly recognized its harsh conditions and moved on to more hospitable places.

But for William and many others, this land offered their greatest chance at freedom, opportunity and peace.

The future of the United States was uncertain when the first pioneers arrived. Our fledgling nation was embroiled in a period of internal conflict, which culminated in the Civil War.

Surviving, let alone thriving here — where others didn’t dare — required cooperation, selflessness, and dedication to family and community. Only a commitment to a greater, common good would allow them to tame the land, find security and establish vital services in such an isolated place.

Generations later, Utah is home to millions and has the fastest growing economy and population in the nation, while income inequality is the lowest of any state. Many of our communities are now considered the most prosperous in America.

Thousands of people of diverse backgrounds still take refuge in Utah from pestilence and conflict, while others come for economic opportunity and community for their families.

Meanwhile, our nation is in jeopardy once again, and problems outside of Utah are increasingly impacting our lives at home.

Our two major political parties are more polarized than they’ve been in a century. The extremes now dominate our politics and seek to weaponize government power against fellow Americans they consider “enemies.”

These extremes don’t represent Utah. They prevent us from governing ourselves.

The result is crisis after crisis that never get solved: forest fires, water shortages, a never-ending pandemic, inflation and an exploding national debt, the high cost of healthcare, and a loss of faith in our elections.

Lately, it seems as though America is coming apart. If not corrected, its current course will lead to greater hardship.

Here at home, we have a better way: the Utah Way. It’s more compassionate, selfless, and independent. It’s the kind of leadership that sticks to principle, yet still finds common ground to solve problems. It’s how we prosper together in this desert.

America needs Utah’s leadership.

We do not need the extremists, the dividers, or the self-serving opportunists who haunt the halls of Congress today. We need selfless, servant leaders who unite rather than divide, seek solutions rather than attention, and who will consistently put the interests of Utahns and our country first.

That’s why I’m running to replace Sen. Mike Lee and to represent Utah, and our values, in the United States Senate.

I believe that Lee originally went to Washington with good intentions, but he has lost his way. Instead of representing the best of Utah, he enflames political tensions and often embodies the worst of Washington’s broken politics. He focuses more on dividing people and attention-seeking obstructionism than on finding common ground and solutions that serve Utah and the nation.

Once a constitutionalist, he assisted spurious legal challenges to our last election that we now know were part of a larger plot to overturn our democratic republic, which included a violent insurrection for the same purpose. Lee kept the plan hidden from the public in service to a man he said deserved “a mulligan” for sending the mob.

It was the same man who Lee compared to the righteous Captain Moroni of The Book of Mormon, even after demanding the man’s withdrawal from the 2016 election for bragging about his sexual assault of women.

This is what becomes of men who place their own ambitions before the people and the republic.

We can do better.

More than ever, the words of my great-great-grandfather echo in my mind and soul. Utah is the “haven of our hopes,” for Utahns, yes, but it must be for America now, too.

Though I am a former Republican, I’m not running as one, nor as a Democrat, but as a fellow patriot and independent. In the Senate, I’ll work with anyone willing to do good for Utah and this nation. I’ll answer to Utahns and Utahns alone — not party bosses and not extremist factions.

It will make Utah the most influential state in America.

No single Utah group — whether it be principled Republicans, Democrats, independents or third parties — acting on their own can replace Mike Lee, but together we can prevail.

Lee has earned his unpopularity in Utah, but we must unite on common ground with a shared purpose, putting country over party, in order to bring new leadership to Washington and better represent Utah. If united, we can secure America’s future for our children and the generations that follow.

For the next 12 months, my team of Republicans, Democrats and independents and I will work to build this coalition to which I humbly invite all Utahns, regardless of party affiliation or who they supported in past elections.

Utah’s ancestors understood the power of uniting for the greater good. Against all odds, they labored together and tamed the wild. This heritage is still planted deeply in the DNA of our great state.

Now, our future demands that we break new ground on the American frontier once again.

Together, we will renew America.