Former NFL player Burgess Owens jumped to a strong advantage in Utah’s 4th District of Congress Republican primaries Tuesday night, with the eventual winner facing Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams in November.
Owens got 43.5% of the vote, followed by State Rep. Kim Coleman with 23.9% and Jay “JayMac” McFarland, a former KSL NewsRadio host with 21.7%. Trent Christensen, a venture capitalist CEO, came in with 11%.
Owens said his healthy leadership showed that his message resonated with voters. He is now focused on helping Republicans win back the House in November and overthrow McAdams, a freshman who won by less than 700 votes in 2018.
“I think the district understands not only how important our vote is [but] that by committing ourselves this time, literally, we can be the key piece that saves our country, “said Owens.
The results will be updated Wednesday afternoon and in the coming days as more ballots arrive, but the Associated Press has officially called Owens as the Republican candidate.
The four-way race for the Republican nomination had been one of the most watched, in addition to the much-contested competition for the Republican nomination for Governor.
The 4th District, which extends from rural Sanpete County through the west side of the Salt Lake Valley, is a predominantly Republican district, but moved in 2018 from the then Representative. Mia Love, a Republican, to McAdams, a moderate Democrat.
“Two years ago, McAdams was the successful challenger in a strong election in what turned out to be the most competitive district in the country,” said Jason Perry, director of the University of Utah’s Hinckley Policy Institute. “Enter this current career as an incumbent with significant name recognition and fundraising ability.”
And the incumbent must also overcome efforts to paint him as loyal to Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, a much-hated figure in conservative circles, even though McAdams voted for someone else to head the chamber.
For the most part, Perry said, McAdams has done a good job of “threading the needle” to keep its credentials moderate in a hyperparty environment.
“The challenger emerging from today’s primary will enter a very competitive race that the entire country will be watching and where simply being a Republican will not be enough to lead the district,” said Perry.
All four Republican challengers support Trump, though some more than others.
In a previous debate, Christensen and McFarland attempted to show how they could work with Democrats, who are expected to maintain control of the House if current polls are an indication.
Coleman, whom Love endorsed, spoke about the conservative credit he has built in the Legislature. While Owens criticized the Democrats.
“We are dealing with people who hate our country,” Owens said of the opposing party. “I will not negotiate a compromise with anyone who hates my country, because they have a totally different ending.”
The only Republican contender in the race to promote mask wear in the midst of the pandemic, McFarland was willing to work toward shared goals rather than simply fighting the other side.
“I think we have to change who we send” to Congress, McFarland said in the debate. “We are choosing extremes that cannot even look to the other side, cannot even speak to the other side.”
Clarification: 1/7/20 12:43 am This story was updated to reflect additional votes counted by Utah County after midnight.