SALT LAKE CITY — Evan McMullin, a former Republican who ran as an independent candidate for president in 2016, endorsed Utah Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams' reelection Monday and criticized his GOP opponent in the 4th Congressional District race, Burgess Owens, for attracting "a dangerous and divisive type of politics" to the state.
The race between McAdams and Owens is one of the country's closest. A new Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll showed Owens, a former NFL player, author and frequent Fox News guest, ahead by a single percentage point.
McMullin, who finished behind President Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton in Utah four years ago with just over 21% of the vote for president, said "Owens has invited a dangerous and divisive type of politics into our state with his lies about Ben McAdams and catering to extremism."
He said "Owens simply doesn't share our values and has no interest in working across party lines for the good of Utah and the country," and urged voters to "put country over party" and back McAdams, "an independent, unifying leader who has worked effectively with both parties to deliver for our state."
McAdams said he appreciates "Evan's endorsement and I am proud to receive the backing of such a dedicated public servant. He and I share the same belief that people come before party, and that we need to bridge divides, not widen them, in order to solve problems."
Owens' campaign responded by listing endorsements he has received from Utah Republicans including gubernatorial nominee Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, outgoing Gov. Gary Herbert, Sen. Mike Lee, Reps John Curtis, Chris Stewart and Rob Bishop, and former Rep. Mia Love, who lost to McAdams two years ago.
Jesse Ranney, Owens' spokesman, said Owens is "honored" to receive endorsements from those on the list "and numerous others who have been serving Utah for decades."
Also endorsing Owens is Trump, whose son, Donald Trump Jr., helped the first-time candidate raise money in Utah.
Both McAdams and McMullin are supporting the Democratic candidate in the presidential race, former Vice President Joe Biden.