Don Olsen: I supported Mike Lee six years ago. No more.

Evan McMullin is the independent voice Utah needs in the U.S. Senate

(Rick Bowmer | AP) Evan McMullin speaks during a rally during his presidential campaign Friday, Oct. 21, 2016, in Draper.

Confession. Six years ago I worked on Sen. Mike Lee’s re-election campaign.

I didn’t agree with many of his political positions but thought at the time that he was honest and sincerely cared about his constituents. I didn’t play a major campaign role, just wrote a weekly article that the campaign could send out to its supporters.

Back then, Lee was all about “principles.” People were more important than party. Congress should work together to solve problems. “We should sharpen pencils rather than swords,” he said. In one mailer he said, “Anger is not our agenda. Frustration is not our platform. Cynicism is not a Conservative value.”

He handily won re-election.

Then Donald Trump was elected and Lee changed. Though he originally opposed Trump (he voted for Evan McMullin) Lee quickly became not only a Trump supporter but one of his most faithful acolytes. And he embraced the character traits that Trump espouses. Among them, “Party first” (really, Trump first), anger, and cynicism. And it shows in the way he represents Utahns. (According to text message exchanges, he even worked to overturn the election and keep Trump in office.)

And Lee became one of the Senate’s most ardent obstructionists, voting “no” on every significant piece of legislation that didn’t originate with Republicans. (His current re-election ads paint him as proud to always say no.) His attitude seems to reflect a belief that he won’t give Democrats a “win” regardless of how beneficial a piece of legislation may be.

I’ve spent many years in and around politics and know how the game is played. The party in power calls most of the shots. But “compromise” is not a dirty word. Our country was founded on compromise. Just saying “no” accomplishes little if anything. Other Republicans, including Utah’s Sen. Mitt Romney, have found ways to work across the aisle to pass meaningful legislation. That’s what I want in a U.S. Senator.

And it’s why I support Evan McMullin. As an Independent, McMullin is not beholden to Donald Trump, Joe Biden or any politician or party. He has promised that he will not caucus with either Democrats or Republicans. I agree with him that the extremists in the two major parties, though they are loud and often abusive, do not represent the majority of Americans.

He and I share the belief that there is a better way. McMullin is basically conservative but realizes that compromise and negotiation are the only way to work toward passage of legislation that will benefit America and Americans.

A recent example: The Democratic-controlled Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act. Mike Lee was a resounding No. By contrast, McMullin says there are parts of the legislation he doesn’t like but parts that he does. That is the kind of common sense representation I want, someone who will seek a seat at the table. Not someone who just says no.

Evan has vast experience serving his country as an undercover CIA agent, a senior policy director in Congress and an independent presidential candidate. He is devoted to his wife and five children. And he is honest and forthright. Traits I appreciate and look for in a candidate.

His detractors say that as an independent he won’t receive committee assignments. That is not true. Every duly elected U.S. Senator receives committee assignments.

We Utahns have the opportunity on November 8 to send an experienced, reasonable and principled person to the U.S. Senate. I urge you to join me in voting for Evan McMullin.

Don Olsen

Don Olsen is a former journalist, U.S. Senate aide and officer with Huntsman Corporation.