Evan McMullin, the #NeverTrump guy: ‘I’ve been to Aleppo. It was a beautiful town.’

Independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin during an interview with AJC reporters before his town hall at the Blueprint Church in Atlanta on Monday. Curtis Compton, ccompton@ajc.com
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Independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin during an interview with AJC reporters before his town hall at the Blueprint Church in Atlanta on Monday. Curtis Compton, ccompton@ajc.com

Evan McMullin, the #NeverTrump candidate conducting a write-in campaign here  and elsewhere, breezed through Atlanta on Monday, in an attempt to persuade Georgia conservatives that they have a viable alternative to Donald Trump.

Candidates who run outside the two-party system can be of uneven quality – witness Green Party candidate Jill Stein (not on the ballot here) and Gary Johnson, the Libertarian.

But unlike them, McMullin isn’t cut from alternative cloth. He joined the Central Intelligence Agency as a student at Brigham Young University in Utah, worked for Goldman Sachs, then was chief policy director for House Republicans in Washington.

He’s got a leg up on Johnson. “I’ve been to Aleppo. It was a beautiful town,” McMullin said, before addressing his audience at Blueprint Church in the Old Fourth Ward community.

McMullin is actually polling even with Trump in Utah. His aim is to muddy the electoral vote enough to force the presidential contest into the U.S. House – something that hasn’t happened since the early 19th century.

We’ll have more on the candidate later, but here are a couple quick points from our interview. Given that Georgia is in many ways is just as conservative as Utah, why is that state far more skeptical of the Republican nominee? Evans pointed to Utah’s Mormon roots:

 “The Mormons, in their history, experienced some persecution in this country. That’s something that they remember – at least, culturally. So they see Donald Trump attacking people of other faiths and people of other races, and it offends them.

 

“I think it’s just a common decency thing, too. That applies not just to Mormons – that applies to a lot of people across the country, who just object to the way he is, at times, quite vile. It just rubs people the wrong way.”

McMullin is 40, with a generationally different definition of what it means to be a conservative:

“I’m a conservative. I’m the only conservative in this race, and I embrace that. But I’m not just like every conservative – there are issues where I’m a little different. For example, I do believe the climate is changing and that carbon emissions contribute to that. I believe we have a responsibility for stewardship to the earth.

 

“But I believe we need to attack that problem by investing in new technology that can compete on the open market to reduce greenhouse emissions. It’s more of a free-market way to approach the problem.

 

“Then on the issue of minorities. Discussing these kinds of issues can be sensitive, and it’s easy to step on toes. But I do believe that the Republican party has missed the boat in welcoming people of other faiths and races and the female gender into the fold.

 

“They knew that after 2012, and then they didn’t do anything about it. They left themselves vulnerable to a hostile takeover by Donald Trump. I believe that it’s time for a new conservative movement – or just a new generation of leadership in this country that embraces the truth that all men and women are created equal…”

We asked McMullin whether his welcome mat extends to sexual orientation and gay marrage. His reply:

“I believe in traditional marriage. I’m a Mormon, and that’s part of my faith. I do believe it is the best thing for society.

 

“But I also believe that adults ought to be able to make decisions for themselves, and if people like me disagree, they have the opportunity to be persuasive to the contrary. But that’s different from the force of law, mandating something. Either way, we find ourselves in a place where the court has decided – and that’s the law of the land.”

More later. FYI, McMullen is a registered write-in candidate in Georgia. So ballots cast for him will be counted.


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