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Opinion: Rep. Chris Stewart’s former chief of staff endorses Evan McMullin

Rep. Stewart’s former chief of staff endorses Evan McMullin for U.S. Senate

SHARE Opinion: Rep. Chris Stewart’s former chief of staff endorses Evan McMullin
Evan McMullin stands to speak at a pulpit with a campaign sign that reads “Courage to lead” in front of a large American flag.

United States Senate candidate Evan McMullin speaks to a group of supporters in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2022.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

I am a lifelong Republican and graduate of the United States Naval Academy. I am also a former Marine Corps infantryman, retired U.S. naval aviator and former chief of staff for Congressman Chris Stewart. I write this op-ed in support of Evan McMullin for U.S. Senate and I want to share why.

In October 2000, I deployed to Saudi Arabia as part of the task force enforcing the no-fly zone over Iraq. The presidential campaign between George W. Bush and Al Gore was in the final stretch, and I looked forward to voting. Although I entered military service from Utah, my first duty station following graduation from the Naval Academy was in Florida, where I established residency. When the absentee ballot arrived, I voted for Bush and mailed it in. I was aware that at that time the U.S. military postal system did not postmark any mail originating in the Middle East, but thought nothing of it. 

On Election Day it was clear that Florida would decide the election. The initial count showed Bush with a small lead. During the recount, the Gore campaign sent a memo to local Democratic Party officials explaining how to challenge unpostmarked absentee ballots, alleging that any unpostmarked ballot could be rejected as there was no way to verify it was sent prior to Election Day.  

This approach was transparently self-serving. Many unpostmarked absentee ballots in Florida were from military personnel in the Middle East. Those ballots overwhelmingly favored Bush, and discarding relatively few of them would swing the election to Gore. When I realized what the Gore campaign was doing, I was livid. Although the Democratic Party eventually stopped challenging overseas military ballots, the fury I experienced at having my right to participate in the democratic process nearly stolen from me remains seared in my memory. 

Evil takes many forms. There are evil political philosophies, regimes and people. But to the cause of constitutional governance, there is nothing more evil than the baseless rejection of legitimate votes. Of all the rights the Constitution enumerates, none is more important than the right to vote, to decide which candidates will in turn assume office and function as the government.  

Which brings us to the 2022 election in Utah. On issues of consequence, the judgment of history is never neutral. Two years after the presidential election of 2020, the judgment of history is clear.

Joe Biden won.

Donald Trump’s claims that the election was stolen are baseless. In every state where the Republican Party contested the results of the election, the counts, recounts and audits confirm Trump lost. In response to 63 legal motions filed by Trump’s campaign and surrogates, not a single court validated any claims of fraud.  

Yet Sen. Mike Lee — a self-described defender of the Constitution — took Trump’s assertions at face value and engaged in a deeply anti-democratic effort with Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows to investigate whether Republican-controlled legislatures in contested states could seat alternate electors to the Electoral College, who would then substitute their judgment for the will of the voters and declare Trump the winner. Not only was the pretext of electoral fraud demonstrably false, there is no basis in the Constitution or law for legislatures to intervene after an election and reject the choice made by citizens. The very premise of alternate electors is fundamentally dishonest.     

Like most Utahns, I am politically conservative. I agree with Lee on most issues of policy. But when it comes to the Constitution, I am an absolutist. Obeying, honoring and sustaining the constitutional process — in this case, accepting the results of an election — is infinitely more important than any policy outcome. I am reminded of the words of Alexander Solzhenitsyn:

“You can resolve to live your life with integrity. Let your credo be this: Let the lie come into the world, let it even triumph. But not through me.”

When Trump lied about the 2020 election in an attempt to subvert the Constitution and remain in office, Lee was with him every step of the way and only abandoned the effort after it was clear it would fail. Utah deserves to be represented by someone whose only allegiance is to the Constitution, and not the fragile ego of a petty tyrant. I hope you join me in supporting McMullin, and vote for him for U.S. Senate. 

Chris Harmer is a graduate of Woods Cross High School, the United States Naval Academy, and is a former Marine Corps infantryman, retired U.S. naval aviator, and former chief of staff for Rep. Chris Stewart. This editorial represents his personal opinion.