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SALT LAKE CITY — Former KSL Newsradio talk show host Jay Mcfarland said he's announcing a run for the 4th Congressional District Thursday in the hopes of becoming a national voice for conservatism.
"Have you heard of AOC?" Mcfarland asked in a recent interview, referring to the outspoken freshman Democrat congresswoman from New York City, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Does that mean he sees himself as a Republican answer to Ocasio-Cortez?
"If you want to phrase it that way," Mcfarland said. He later described himself "in some ways, as a reformer," ready to take a cause and a party hurt by Republican President Donald Trump.
"I may be completely naive, but the power of one is still alive and well," he said, especially for "somebody with a voice who doesn't shy away from media, who doesn't only speak when there's some political advantage."
Mcfarland said he sees "a huge opening on the right for that type of voice," not being utilized by other Republicans, including those in Utah's congressional delegation.
"They are missing out on their most important and most effective tool, and that's the bully pulpit. I think that the politicians of today run from controversy instead of toward it," he said.
As for Trump, Mcfarland said the president may be doing the opposite in using the White House as a bully pulpit, because "instead of using it to change hearts and minds, he just uses it to attack."
The host of the afternoon JayMac News Show on KSL Newsradio for nine years until he stepped down earlier this month, Mcfarland said he'll take a different tack in the race for the the seat now held by Utah's only Democrat in Congress, Rep. Ben McAdams.
With the 4th District race already a top priority of the National Republican Congressional Committee that helps fund campaigns around the country, he's anticipating a big audience.
"That tells me that even in campaigning, not just being elected, that I will have the opportunity to share these thoughts with the nation. Because the nation will be watching Utah 4. That's where it begins," Mcfarland said.
"I got into radio to be able to impact the public debate. Just over the last couple of years, I felt like our political discourse has degraded to such a horrific level, it's not enough for me to talk about it," he said.
After talking about his views over the airwaves in Las Vegas and Dallas as well as Salt Lake City, Mcfarland said those who've tuned in know what to expect from him should he make it to Washington, D.C.
"I feel like my listeners know me intimately. The tagline for my show has been fearless honesty. One reason for that is I share all the deepest, darkest secrets of my life," he said, such as early financial failures that caused him to consider suicide.
"I felt like the only out was taking my own life," Mcfarland said, until his wife and others realized his situation and rallied around him. Sharing that story on the air has resulted in his keeping in touch with listeners who felt the same despair, he said.
Giving up his radio job, Mcfarland said, was the most difficult decision he's ever made. He said he's relying on savings as well as money earned from developing game apps targeted at members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
He had little to say about the candidates already in the race, including Kathleen Anderson, a former Davis County GOP official who handled the Utah Republican Party's communications when her husband, Rob, served as chairman.
Mia Love, who in 2018 lost the seat in the district that includes portions of Salt Lake and Utah counties after serving two terms, has said she's considering another run if no candidate comes forward who she believes can beat McAdams.
Now a CNN commentator, Love said recently that Mcfarland's interest in running seemed to "come out of left field" and that said "there's a difference between being a radio show host and really putting your actions behind your words."
But Mcfarland said he doesn't believe he'll face Love in the race. He also said he never saw her as "a strong spokesperson for conservatism or for Utah values. To me, you have to inspire people. You have to excite them about the cause."
There is still a question of how Mcfarland's name would appear on the ballot, since his real name is Joey Mcfarland Smith. The Herriman resident and father of four said he started in radio using the initial "J" before his middle name, but "Jay" stuck.
He said he wants voters "to know that my entire time on the radio, I've fought for what I believe to be right and that I view running for Congress as the next logical progression in that fight."