SALT LAKE CITY — The contentious 4th District Republican primary race to take on Utah’s only Democrat in Congress in November is over as the three other candidates competing for the nomination have conceded to former NFL player Burgess Owens.
In the latest election results released Wednesday, Owens, an author and a frequent guest on Fox News, had nearly 44% of the vote over state Rep. Kim Coleman, R-West Jordan, who had just under 24%; former KSL Newsradio host Jay Mcfarland, with nearly 22%; and nonprofit CEO Trent Christensen, with almost 11%.
Owens, who faces first-term Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, in November, praised his primary opponents.
“It’s good that we’re on the same team, we’re on the same side, the same page. And that is to make sure we get our country going back in the direction our forefathers saw it as, not the chaos we’re seeing throughout the streets right now, pushed by the Democratic Party,” Owens told KSL Newsradio host Lee Lonsberry.
He described his views as “very conservative” and said as a Black man who grew up in a middle-class family in the segregated South and was taught the importance of education, faith, industry and family, he shares those values with Utahns.
It’s “what makes our country great and is what we’re being attacked on,” Owens said, adding the GOP can win back the seat “as long as we come together and realize that if we do that and give our kids the great opportunity to live this American dream and understand the enemy is not each other, it’s an ideology of socialism and Marxism.”
McAdams said he and Owens “have real and important differences on a number of issues,” adding he looks “forward to a spirited debate on many of his ideas which I oppose, such as his calls to privatize Social Security, disband the Department of Education and end health care protections” in the Affordable Care Act.
“I understand that this district belongs to Utah, not a political party and am grateful to Utahns who put their faith in me every day because of the independent voice I bring to Washington,” McAdams said. “I congratulate and welcome Burgess into the race.”
Results are expected to continue to be updated in the race because of changes made in the by-mail election due to COVID-19, including requiring ballots to be quarantined for at least 24 hours before they can be processed by a socially distanced group of election workers.
But given the size of Owens’ lead, Christensen conceded Tuesday night, and Mcfarland and Coleman did the same Wednesday.
“We are very proud of the campaign that we ran,” Mcfarland said. “For an entire year we sought to convince voters that we must restore civility to our politics before it’s too late. We are so incredibly grateful to those who embraced our cause and we hope this message will continue to grow.”
He pledged that “this is not the end of our fight to turn this government around.”
Coleman, the final 4th District candidate to concede, issued a statement early Wednesday afternoon. “If enthusiasm and energy were sufficient, we’d have won easily last night,” the state lawmaker said, adding she will back Owens.
“We believe that in nominating Burgess, Republican voters seek a repudiation of the recent widespread riots and violence under the deceptive label of ‘peaceful protests.’ Voters in Utah know we need to push back against the assault on American history and values by the now openly violent elements of Black Lives Matter and antifa – and our voters decided Burgess is the one to carry that ball down the field,” Coleman said.
Owens had not claimed victory Tuesday but told the Deseret News he was “very confident” given his lead.
“This is a district that both parties need — the Democrats need it to keep their chaos, and we need it to keep our country and our culture,” Owens said, adding that “at the end of the day, it’s about winning the seat back.”
McAdams, a former Salt Lake County mayor, was elected to Congress in 2018 by less than 700 votes over two-term Rep. Mia Love, who was the first Black Republican woman to serve in Congress. The 4th District, which includes portions of Salt Lake and Utah counties has been targeted nationally by both Republicans and Democratic groups.
He is considered among the most vulnerable members of Congress seeking reelection. Love, who had endorsed Coleman after considering another run herself, told KSL Newsradio that Owens brings credibility to discussions about police treatment of Blacks.
Owens has the ability to “unite Americans and not create this division between police officers and the Black community,” Love, now a CNN contributor, said, adding voters want to hear from someone who can speak to issues in diverse communities and be a supporter of law enforcement.
Love said she’s meeting with Owens next week and suggested his campaign could get a boost if he’s given a speaking slot at the upcoming Republican National Convention, just as she was during her first bid for Congress in 2012. Love lost that race to then-incumbent Rep. Jim Matheson, but gained a national base of support.
Whether that happens ultimately would be up to President Donald Trump, said Love, who declined help from Trump two years ago. “I don’t know ins and outs of the White House but I think that would be an opportunity and I don’t see the president backing away from a Black Utah” candidate willing to help his reelection.