KSL, file

Controversial text sparks even more conversation about 4th District race

By Caitlin Burchill, KSL TV | Posted - Nov 5th, 2018 @ 10:39pm

SALT LAKE CITY – An already heated race is getting even more attention after some Utahns received a controversial text about the candidates of our state’s 4th Congressional District race.

The text read: “The Independent Republicans of Utah want you to know you won’t be excommunicated for voting for Dem Ben McAdams–he’s the best Republican in the race.”

The McAdams camp responded: “As an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Mayor McAdams respects the Church’s long-standing neutrality in political races and would never imply their involvement in this race.”

The controversial tweet was retweeted by Rep. Mia Love, who called it "inappropriate."

So then, who sent it?

The Independent Republicans of Utah is a political action committee that registered with the state within the last couple of weeks, according to Utah Director of Elections Justin Lee.

The address listed for the organization is associated with David Garbett, the executive director of The Pioneer Park Coalition.

KSL TV reached out to him, and he confirmed he was involved with the effort to send out the text.

While he wasn’t available to speak with KSL TV, he forwarded us to his father, a local builder and former Republican state legislator who said he’s enjoyed working with McAdams on homeless issues.

“I was invited to support and also be a part of the message to send out that, ‘Hey it’s OK for Republicans to vote for Ben,” said Bryson Garbett.


Lee says this texting tactic is something he hasn’t seen before.

“There’s nothing in state law that really says you can’t send out a mass text, and there’s certainly nothing that says exactly how you have to say these things. So while some people may have found it distasteful, campaigns are allowed to send out that kind of thing,” he said.

Election officials say they’ll be keeping an eye on this PAC to see if they eventually report any contributions or expenditures — so far they haven’t.

Republicans and Democrats have raised concerns to KSL TV about federal election issues in Utah; we’ll keep you posted if we learn of any official complaints.

So, while questions still linger, one thing’s for sure: this last-minute effort brought even more attention to this race.

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