McMullin said he was opposed to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton from the outset, but originally had optimism on the Republican side.
"But as I watched … I saw Donald Trump gain momentum. I saw a lack of willingness of Republican leaders to stand up to Donald Trump even as he attacked people of different races and religions, people with disabilities, and anybody else who he found to be vulnerable," said a choked-up McMullin.
He said he asked around for people he respected to run as an independent conservative but couldn't find any takers, so he decided to step up.
Wednesday, he laid out a few of his priorities: returning power to the states, restoring to Congress power he said has been usurped by the executive branch, stimulating the economy with more open trade and eliminating red tape that he said keeps entrepreneurs down.
The next president should also address the national debt, place education decisions in the hands of parents, create poverty programs designed to help people out of poverty instead of survive it, and alleviate student debt.
McMullin said the solution in a country where "70 to 80 percent of Americans say that we're on the wrong track" lies in recommitting to foundational American values like equality and liberty and demanding more of government officials.
"When we see leaders or would-be leaders in this country attacking our ideals, we must reject them," McMullin said.
A new campaign document outlining McMullin's conservative ideals was distributed at the event, along with a challenge to talk to friends about the document and help spark better leadership through civic engagement.
"I believe it's time for a national conversation. Not the kind of conversation we see on the television between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, as entertaining as that is. But a conversation with each other."