Evan McMullin’s vice presidential candidate is a bit of an enigma.
Nathan Johnson’s name is on the ballot alongside McMullin’s in 11 states, and he’s eligible as a write-in candidate in 32 more. A few million people on Election Day will likely vote for him.
But Johnson isn’t campaigning with McMullin and doesn’t even want to be vice president. Voters don’t even know who he is, because McMullin’s campaign has withheld details. Instead, McMullin emphasizes that should he get elected, he’d actually have former Republican strategist Mindy Finn, a Texas native, as his second-in-charge.
Johnson’s name is on the ballot because the McMullin campaign needed a fill-in vice president to meet state filing deadlines back in August. McMullin settled on a running mate – Finn – a few weeks later but she is not on the ballot.
McMullin, an independent who bills himself as the true conservative for president, admits that Johnson is a mere placeholder. Johnson was asked to be vice president at the last second this summer when McMullin launched his long-shot bid.
But in October, new polls in Utah showed McMullin, a Mormon with a degree from Brigham Young University, within striking distance of Donald Trump due to disgust over Trump’s lewd comments about women.
Suddenly, a lot more people became interested in the mysterious Nathan Johnson.
The McMullin campaign has been vague about Johnson’s background and unwilling to make him available to the media, prompting social media intrigue as people tried to figure out Johnson’s identity.
Brian Henderson, Utah director for the McMullin campaign, said, “There’s no story there,” when asked by the BYU student newspaper about Johnson shortly after his bid was made official in August.
That story incorrectly identified Johnson as a Mormon from Ohio who made an invocation at the Republican National Convention. A month later, the article was corrected to simply say, “Nathan Johnson.” The convention speaker was not the Nathan Johnson running for vice president.
Washington media strategist Finn, a native of Kingwood, Texas, is McMullin’s unofficial running mate. The campaign says that if McMullin wins Johnson will drop off the ticket and Finn will assume the vice presidency.
“While our campaign has been unconventional, it has been legal and ethical from day one,” McMullin spokeswoman Rina Shah said in an email to McClatchy. The McMullin campaign declined to make Johnson available for an interview Friday.
New public documents obtained by McClatchy shed more light on McMullin’s mystery running mate.
Nathan Johnson is a 40-year-old consultant with Morgan Borszcz Consulting, a Virginia-based firm that describes itself as a “woman-owned small business” that “provides enterprise solution management and integration services to the federal government.”
Johnson, who lives and works in San Diego, received $105,000 in income from Morgan Borszcz, according to a vice presidential financial disclosure form he filed with the Federal Election Commission. He has worked at Morgan Borszcz since 2009.
Johnson did not respond to repeated email requests for comment. Messages to Morgan Borszcz were not answered.
A LinkedIn page describes a Nathan Johnson who fits the description of McMullin’s running mate on public documents. In addition to his work at Morgan Borszcz, Johnson served in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division from 2004 to 2006 and as a legislative assistant for the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association from 2000 to 2003.
Johnson graduated from BYU in 2000 with a bachelor’s in political science and obtained a master’s degree in international commerce and policy from George Mason in 2009, according to the LinkedIn profile. The profile also says Johnson speaks Portuguese.
He does not appear to have a criminal record, according to documents reviewed by McClatchy.
McClatchy reached out to over a half-dozen friends, former co-workers and family members connected to Johnson. All of them declined to comment.
Johnson penned a blog post on the campaign website last week, where he described himself as a veteran, father and friend of McMullin but stopped short of providing any additional details about his background.
The only documents where Johnson’s name showed up before the FEC reports being released were state election forms, some of which were available online. The documents didn’t list any information about Johnson other than his name or address.
Utah state Rep. Carol Spackman Moss wants to change Utah’s disclosure requirements for federal candidates in the wake of Johnson’s mystery bid for office. She said concerned constituents had been asking her who Nathan Johnson was for weeks.
“I checked with the state elections office,” Moss said. “For me to run for a state legislative office we go to the clerk’s office and fill out papers. He’s running for vice president and they don’t have any contact information. It could be your dog’s name. I read that whole thing about government accountability and thought it was hypocritical coming from the McMullin campaign. They don’t even have to list any contact information. He’s on the ballot – why can’t a reporter call this person?”
In response to questions by a Utah television station and Moss about Johnson’s identity, McMullin’s campaign said, “This is another example of the State Republican Party thinking they own your votes. We won’t be threatened by them. While our campaign has been unconventional, it has been legal and ethical from day one.”
Moss is a Democrat, not a Republican.
Moss is worried that future presidential candidates could use a lack of required information to deceive voters, though she doesn’t think there’s anything nefarious with McMullin’s campaign.
“He’s the ethics candidate,” Moss said of McMullin. “How can you have a name on the ballot and say, ‘Oh, just kidding’? It bothers me that he’s not being honest and upfront about his running mate. At the very least it’s disingenuous.”