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SANDY — Former NFL player Burgess Owens, a Fox News contributor and author, announced Wednesday he’s joining the increasingly crowded Republican field in the race for the 4th District seat held by Utah’s only Democrat in Congress, Rep. Ben McAdams.
“I’m not here to be a politician. I’m here to save our nation,” Owens told more than 50 supporters gathered in a room at the Hale Centre Theatre for a campaign kickoff breakfast, making them repeat the four tenets of head, heart, hands and home, what he termed a gift that can bring the country together.
“This gift, it heals our division. It unites across party lines, across race lines, across religious lines. It highlights the American way,” Owens said. “I don’t care if you’re Democrat, Republican or independent, these four tenets work always, as long as you love America.”
The tenets, from the late 19th-century African American leader Booker T. Washington, are the basis of Owens’ Utah-based nonprofit, Second Chance 4 Youth, a national mentoring program aimed at “helping at-risk and incarcerated youth experience the American dream.”
Owens promised to bring the values the tenets represent — education, faith, industry and family — to Washington, D.C., to counter a country that is more divided now than when he was growing up in the segregated South.
“This is probably the most important battle,” he said, ending his brief speech with his children and grandchildren throwing T-shirts out to the crowd to Kenny Loggins’ “This Is It,” a song he found inspirational before a key game during a football career that included a Super Bowl championship.
A number of other Republicans are either already in the 4th District race or close to announcing they’re running, including state Senate Majority Whip Dan Hemmert, R-Orem; Kathleen Anderson, who handled communications for the Utah GOP; former KSL Newsradio host Jay Mcfarland; and state Rep. Kim Coleman, R-West Jordan.
McAdams, who won the seat in 2018 by less than 700 votes, is viewed as one of the most vulnerable Democrats running for reelection and has been targeted directly by President Donald Trump’s campaign as well as other national conservative organizations.
“Ben is a good guy, a nice guy,” Owens told a reporter after his announcement. “But the party he’s representing does not have the values that we’ve got here in Utah. ... I want to make sure we have a different choice and Utahns can have their values represented in D.C.”
Owens said he got into the race even though there are already other Republican candidates because he believes “my background, my message, is somewhat unique and is one that unifies. My goal right now is just not to talk to Republicans, it’s to talk to Republicans, Democrats and independents, those who love our country.”
He said focusing on the four tenets is key, because “all parties, all people, love our country, love our kids and want a future for them. They understand that. We can have conversations about that because we’re not getting all into the weeds about other things.”
Owens praised the Republican in the White House, President Donald Trump, as “an advocate for black Americans, black kids getting educated, having a choice. I love the fact he’s all about having black Americans having jobs,” saying Trump has “done more to help my community come out of the darkness than any president in my lifetime.”
Citing statistics about black youth being unable to read, write or find jobs as well as abortion numbers, Owens said, “That’s darkness, that’s hopelessness, that’s anger. We need to make sure our kids and our race do not turn into what I fought against growing up. We cannot become racists.”
But Owens said his candidacy is “not about about my color. It’s about my principles and values. If my principles and values connect with you, it doesn’t matter what color you are, what your religion is. ... I don’t want people voting for me because of my color. It’s all about meritocracy, it’s what what value I can bring to Utahns.”
He urged voters to look at results when it comes to making a decision at the ballot box.
“I think that’s what we need to be judging our politicians on. Let’s not look at personalities. What are the results? Is it helping you and me, is it helping us take more home at the end of the day, is it helping us have a better future?” he asked. “If we do that, then I think we really can all come together on what really does matter.”
Owens is the author of “Liberalism or How to Turn good Men into Whiners, Weenies and Wimps,” a book critical of what’s described as decades of efforts by black leaders to promote socialism, and “Why I Stand: From Freedom to the Killing Fields of Socialism.”