The unexpected vice-presidential campaign of Mindy Finn got a little more surprising in these final weeks, as polls show her and her running mate, former CIA agent Evan McMullin, steadily swaying voters to their Independent ticket.
Those gains are particularly prevalent in Utah, where a win would go a long way toward their long-shot goal of denying both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump the 270 electoral votes they need to clinch the presidency, sending the choice to Congress.
But before she was a White House contender, Finn was making her mark in DC—she’s been the director of digital strategy for Mitt Romney’s 2008 campaign, a Washingtonian Tech Titan for co-founding the digital communications firm Engage, and, most recently, the founder of the nonprofit Empowered Women.
“I was not planning to run for VP this year—or ever,” Finn tells Washingtonian, but a phone call and meeting with McMullin this fall changed that. Here are five questions for the accidental candidate, touching on her penchant for tech policy, the difficulty of running as an independent, and why conservatives might need a new party in the near future.
When you talk to voters who say they’re casting their ballot for you, what reasons do they give?
Conservatives say they are voting for us because we are the only real conservative ticket in this race. More broadly, conservatives and others say they’re voting for us because we’re unequivocal in our belief that all men and women are created equal and entitled to the same rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. However, I think the most common response we get boils down to the belief that neither of the major party candidates have the character necessary to lead our country.
In Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, we have two candidates who have spent significant time in this race debating who is less corrupt. We need honest and wise leaders in this country, and we frequently hear that voters appreciate that we’re offering light in an otherwise dark election. What I hear more than anything is people who say, “Thank you for giving me an option that I can be proud to vote for.” Upon hearing this, I always thank them, because it’s the people who are willing to stand up for principle that will help create a new generation of leadership in America.
Do you encounter voters who want to vote for you, but are skeptical of going with a third party for whatever reason? What do you say to them to try to convince them?
Amazingly, I’ve been told that a vote for me and Evan is a vote for both Trump and Clinton. It’s a scare tactic, and one that both parties have used for years to help reinforce their electoral power. But this year, when both parties nominated such widely disliked candidates, people have started to push back against the notion that a vote for an independent candidate is a wasted vote; an argument that is an insult to American voters. Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump are not entitled to anyone’s vote. Your vote is your own. It’s your voice. And, if people don’t vote for the types of leaders they want in office, then we’ll never get the types of leaders America deserves.
Republicans have had trouble attracting women and young people, and the party’s nominee this year is not helping. You’ve worked in organizations devoted these groups. What needs to be done to make conservative policies more enticing to them?
To begin with, any party that intends to be successful in the future must directly repudiate racism, sexism, and religious bigotry. We’ve seen many in the Republican Party attempt a balancing act—much like walking a tightrope—around the issue, and that’s unacceptable.
But words alone aren’t enough. We need a conservative movement that respects the issues and voices of all communities. That means listening to women and minorities, in particular, and building a platform of conservative solutions that will address the problems they face. That’s been a key focus of our campaign and something that we will continue to push as we move forward.
If you win Utah or even just succeed in getting a higher-than-expected number of votes, where do you see the movement you started going in the future? Do you envision a new party coming out of this?
We are building a new conservative movement. If the Republican Party cannot or will not reform quickly, we will need a new political party. As hundreds of thousands of people across the country are reaching out to support our campaign, I think it just proves that honest, inclusive, and principled conservatism is what America wants and needs. We’re proving that bombast, wealth, and egotism aren’t acceptable substitutes for our constitutional principles. It’s up to the major political parties about whether or not they learn that lesson.
Say you make it to the White House. What kind of Vice President do you see yourself as? What would be your primary goals in that office?
I believe a Vice President’s most important duty is to be a faithful adviser to the President. That means speaking the truth to the President, especially when others may be reluctant to do so. One of the things I most appreciate about Evan is that he invited me to run with him so that we could have those frank discussions on policy and strategy. That is what makes this campaign stronger, and it would make Evan’s presidency stronger.
As far as issues go, I have a history in technology policy, which really is in a terrible state in this country. We have laws from the time of punch card computers that now effect how you use your iPhone. We have to do better. As the Vice President, and therefore president of the Senate, I’d push Congress to modernize our technology laws to open up innovation and protect personal privacy.