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SALT LAKE CITY — Rep. Ben McAdams, Utah's only Democrat in Congress, remained ahead Wednesday of his Republican challenger Burgess Owens in the state's 4th Congressional District but saw his lead shrink as votes continue to be counted in the largely by-mail election.
McAdams now has 48.2% of the vote and Owens, 47.1% — a 2,652 vote lead for the first-term congressman, who had been up by more than 7,700 votes in late Election Day results from the district that includes portions of Salt Lake, Utah, Juab and Sanpete counties.
Additional vote updates are anticipated this afternoon. Utah and Sanpete counties updated their numbers first, followed by Salt Lake County.
The 4th District race was expected to be one of the most competitive in the country, given that McAdams won the Republican-leaning seat held by two-term GOP Rep. Mia Love by less than 700 votes in the 2018 midterm election that gave Democrats control of the House.
But in this year's election, Democrats appear to have failed to expand their House majority and take control of the Senate, while Democratic former Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday he expects to win his tight battle for the White House with Republican President Donald Trump once all the votes are counted nationwide. Trump on Tuesday night declared a "big WIN!" on Twitter.
It's too soon to say whether McAdams will return to Congress, said Chris Karpowitz, co-director of Brigham Young University's Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy.
"Many different things can happen here so I'm reluctant to say. I've seen this race close before and it can happen again," Karpowitz, a political science professor, said. He said depending on where ballots still remain to be counted, "this race could still get a lot closer and it could flip the other way."
McAdams, a former Salt Lake County mayor, is counting on a substantial lead in the state's most populated county that accounts for the bulk of the district's voters to make up for lagging behind Owens in more conservative areas of Utah, Juab and Sanpete counties.
That's how he won the seat in 2018, but it took two weeks before the race was called, and nearly a week longer before Love delivered her concession speech. McAdams said on election night he believes this year's race will be resolved sooner.
Additional information will be posted throughout the day.