McAdams reclaims lead over Owens in Utah's 4th Congressional District

Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, stands outside of Pat's Barbecue in Salt Lake City on election night, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. McAdams is trying to win a second term and is being challenged by Republican Burgess Owens.

(Laura Seitz, KSL)

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SALT LAKE CITY — Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams is once again leading Republican Burgess Owens in Utah's 4th Congressional District, according to the latest results released as votes continue to be counted from Tuesday's election.

New numbers Friday from Utah and Salt Lake counties put McAdams up by 405 votes over Owens, a former NFL player, author and frequent Fox News guest. McAdams is now ahead of Owens, 47.6% to 47.46% in the district that represents portions of Utah, Salt Lake, Juab and Sanpete counties.

The bulk of 4th District voters live in Salt Lake County. Two years ago, McAdams, then the mayor of Salt Lake County, won the seat by less than 700 votes despite trailing two-term Republican Rep. Mia Love in every county but Salt Lake.

Utah County reported just 16 more votes in the race at 3 p.m. Friday — nine for Owens, six for McAdams and one for Libertarian candidate John Molnar — and another 123 several hours later. Utah County election officials estimated there are now only a few hundred 4th District votes left to count.

There are also still more votes to be counted in Salt Lake, Juab and Sanpete counties, including more than 107,000 cast by mail and another 11,000-plus provisional ballots in Salt Lake County, although it is not clear how many are from the 4th District. Another update is set to come Saturday from Salt Lake County.a

More than 291,000 votes have been counted in the race so far.

The closeness of the 2018 race, combined with the district's GOP leanings, has made Utah's 4th District seat one of the nation's most competitive. Last year, the Washington Post ranked the seat the most likely to flip and McAdams, Utah's only Democrat in Congress, has been called one of the country's most vulnerable House members.

His election night lead held through Thursday, when that day's first update from Utah County flipped the race in favor of Owens. But once Salt Lake County reported the latest count, Owens saw his margin reduced to just 18 votes. A second update from Utah County that evening, however, left him nearly 2,300 votes ahead.

Both McAdams' and Owens' campaigns expressed optimism about the ultimate outcome of the election.


Andrew Roberts, McAdams' campaign manager, said, "Again, we're seeing numbers go back and forth as additional votes are tallied. We remain confident that Ben will be re-elected. We are grateful to Utah's election clerks for their deliberate, thorough work on behalf of Utah voters and candidates."

Jesse Ranney, Owens' campaign spokesman, said, "We always expected this one to be tight. We're still confident when all the ballots are in that Burgess Owens will be representing the 4th District."

The final Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll before the election showed Owens ahead of McAdams by a single percentage point. Independent pollster Scott Rasmussen said then that the race was a "pure" toss up that could be impacted by shifts in anticipated voter turnout.

"The poll told us it's really close. And now it looks like the results are saying it's really close," Rasmussen said Friday. "We ended up with a pretty partisan election. There was a lot of talk about, will people be turned off by Donald Trump or candidates associated with him. And it turns out, not really."

The winner of the White House is still being decided, but Trump clearly won Utah Tuesday with 59% of the vote to 38% for Democratic former Vice President Joe Biden. After Owens won the June 30 GOP primary election, he was endorsed by the president. Trump's son, Donald Trump Jr., helped Owens raise money in Utah.

"If there was not the national furor going on, the UT-4 race would be one of those really interesting footnotes that everybody in the country would be watching because it was the last election to be counted," Rasmussen said. "We don't have that."

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