SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's only Democrat in Congress, Rep. Ben McAdams, raised $1.1 million less over the past three months than his Republican opponent, Burgess Owens, who collected more than $2.5 million in campaign contributions.
Owens, a first-time candidate, had lagged far behind McAdams in fundraising earlier this year for one of the nation's most competitive congressional races. But now Owens also has more cash on hand as of Sept. 30, just over $1 million, than the freshman congressman, who has less than $638,000.
Overall, McAdams has raised just under $4.9 million for his bid for a second term in Utah's 4th Congressional District, which includes portions of Salt Lake and Utah counties, compared to the nearly $3.3 million brought in by Owens.
The totals from the candidates' latest financial disclosures filed with the Federal Election Commission don't include the millions of dollars being spent in Utah by both Republican and Democratic political action committees on the race, mainly for a steady stream of negative TV commercials.
After Owens won the state's GOP primary election on June 30, nationally prominent Republicans have stepped up to help him raise money, including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California. President Donald Trump's son, Donald Trump Jr., appeared at several Owens fundraising events in Utah in July.
"The strength of our fundraising is a direct result of our message. Voters in our district deserve a congressman that will represent their values in Washington everyday," Owens said in a statement that called his campaign "one of the top fundraising Republican campaigns in the country."
Owens said despite what he claimed is nearly $10 million being spent in the state by a super PAC controlled by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, "we will have the resources to get our message out to the voters and directly combat the falsehoods and negativity that are flooding Salt Lake airwaves."
He said, "Ben McAdams talks a big game during an election year but when he flies back to Washington, he forgets where he came from and votes with socialist Democrats nearly 90% of the time. That is unacceptable for Utah."
The strength of our fundraising is a direct result of our message. Voters in our District deserve a congressman that will represent their values in Washington everyday.
According to ProPublica, McAdams votes against his party 15% of the time.
McAdams' campaign manager, Andrew Roberts, said in a statement, "Washington D.C. party bosses and special interest groups were promising to spend whatever it took to beat Ben before he'd even been sworn into office. We always knew this would be a close race and are not taking anything for granted."
Roberts said McAdams "is grateful for the outpouring of support from Utahns. People are tired of the broken, divisive politics in Washington and want an independent voice like Ben's protecting their health care, air quality, educational opportunities, and economic recovery from the COVID-19 emergency."
The race is seen as a toss-up since August by the Cook Political Report, a Washington D.C.-based independent and nonpartisan online publication that analyzes key political races around the country. McAdams has been labeled among the nation's most vulnerable members of Congress seeking reelection.
He won the seat in 2018 by less than 700 votes over two-term Republican Rep. Mia Love.
"We all know that this is an extremely competitive district," said Jason Perry, director of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics. He said while McAdams has raised more throughout the campaign, "money began to flow" for Owens once he became the Republican Party nominee.
"When you are the only Republican game in town for that district, people started giving money," Perry said. "This is a battleground district. The Republicans don't like the fact that they lost it and Democrats are doing everything they can to keep it."
All that campaign cash means voters can expect to continue hearing from the candidates through TV commercials, social media, mailers and other advertising through Election Day, especially since the coronavirus pandemic has made campaigning in person more difficult.
"There are not a lot of opportunities for these candidates to access voters directly, so we're going to see an increased amount of material coming to our homes," Perry said. "There will be very few people in the 4th Congressional District who don't know who these two candidates are by the time we hit Nov. 3."
Increased mail-in voting, COVID-19, and a variety of state-by-state election formats contribute to a unique 2020 election. As a result, it is likely that many close House and Senate races, as well as the presidency, will not be called on Nov. 3.
States may also shift in outcome in the days or weeks following the election — an expected change experts have warned about as results are returned. While human error happens, both mail-in and in-person voting have extremely low rates of fraud.
The state of Utah has used vote-by-mail since 2012. It has safeguards in place to make sure every ballot it receives is legitimate.