Independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin appeals to students, tries to pick up voters

Paul Cobler

Evan McMullin, an independent candidate for president, said he believes his policies appeal more to UT students than those of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump or Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

Saturday afternoon, McMullin spoke at an event for his supporters in downtown Austin before participating in a one-on-one discussion with Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith at the Texas Tribune Festival Sunday morning.

“I think what it’s about is trust,” said McMullin, a retired CIA operative. “I think they see me and say, ‘Hey, I may not agree with this guy entirely on every issue, but I trust him.’ That’s the most common word I’ve heard since I launched this campaign.”

McMullin said he thinks his stances on student debt separates him from Clinton and Trump when appealing to college-age voters. McMullin said he wants to lower student loan interest rates by tying them to market rates. He also wants to hold schools accountable for its students that are unable to repay their loans.

“I’m probably the only presidential candidate who still has student loans,” McMullin said. “We need to say to schools, ‘Look, if your students can’t pay back their loans, then some of that money is going to be at risk to you.’ The schools will feel pressured to keep the cost of education low and the quality of education high.”

Political communications sophomore Austin Sappington, who said he is planning on voting for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, said the biggest factor stopping him from supporting McMullin is his lack of a presence on the ballot in all 50 states. McMullin, who expects to be on the ballot in a majority of states come Election Day, will not be on the Texas ballot and is registered only as a write-in candidate.

“His name isn’t out there, and his name won’t be on the ballot in November,” Sappington said. “That’s just the uncomfortable situation we find ourselves in with the two-party system. I don’t want to throw away my vote because I feel like that’s just helping Trump.”

Sports management sophomore Garrison Gandy, who is considering voting for Johnson, said McMullin’s background in the CIA gives him more faith in McMullin in matters of foreign policy than any of the other candidates.

“We definitely in this time need a leader who is knowledgeable in foreign policy,” Gandy said. “An ex-CIA guy is definitely helpful with that. You can’t trust Trump with the nuclear codes, and I just don’t agree with Hillary.”

Smith quizzed McMullin on a wide variety of his policy stances, including gay marriage, border control and climate change.

“I believe in traditional marriage,” McMullan said. “But I’m uncomfortable that we would dictate by law on that.”

McMullin also said the country needs stronger border control but wants to create an easier path for a “legal presence here” before adding that immigrants would still need to take the traditional route to full citizenship.

McMillan, who went to Brigham Young University for college, identifies as a conservative but said he can no longer say he’s a Republican. 

He discussed the need for bringing the government “back to the people” by making it smaller, something he said Trump will not do.

“I am opposed to Trump, and I am sympathetic to the #NeverTrump movement,” McMullin said. “He is a Republican … But he is not a conservative.”