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SALT LAKE CITY — Republican Burgess Owens saw his lead over Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams jump Friday to 2,095 votes after new election results were released by Utah County and Salt Lake County in the 4th Congressional District race.
Owens, a former NFL player, author and frequent Fox News guest, is now ahead of McAdams, Utah's only Democrat in Congress, 47.5% to 46.93% in the district that includes portions of Salt Lake, Utah, Juab and Sanpete counties.
Neither candidate immediately commented on the latest numbers, which appear to make it extremely difficult for McAdams to overtake Owens. Owens has been out in front for the past week, after trailing the first-term congressman. The final county canvass of votes is Tuesday.
But even though the close race has not been called, Owens was being congratulated on social media Friday, including in a tweet from Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Georgia, who faces her own runoff election in January. She tweeted, "Congrats to my friend @BurgessOwens on your big win! I look forward to working with you to protect the American Dream!"
It's likely Salt Lake County, where most of the district's voters live, will decide the outcome of the election and there may not be many 4th District votes left to count there. But Utah County, a conservative stronghold, is a different story.
Friday, Owens ended up with another 2,613 votes in Salt Lake County compared to 2,225 for McAdams, although McAdams is still ahead in Salt Lake County with nearly 52% of the vote to almost 43% for Owens. Earlier in the day, Owens added 131 votes from Utah County to just 40 for McAdams.
None of Utah County's more than 7,100 provisional ballots have been added to the vote totals, Utah County Clerk/Auditor Amelia Powers Gardner said, and there are also about 1,000 overseas and military ballots yet to be counted. She estimated about 20% of those ballots could be 4th District voters.
There are also some 200 Utah County voters in the 4th District whose ballots can't be counted until they are signed or other issues are addressed, she said, adding they were all contacted a second time at the request of the McAdams campaign.
Utah County won't update results again until Tuesday's final canvass of the vote at 3 p.m., Gardner said.
Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen said more than 9,000 of the 11,000-plus provisional ballots that have been verified along with 204 of the 2,000 ballots with signature problems or other issues that voters must fix. It is not clear how many of the remaining ballots are from 4th District voters.
But there were nearly 5,400 Salt Lake County votes counted Friday just in the 4th District. Besides McAdams and Owens, Libertarian John Molnar and the United Utah Party's Jonia Broderick are also on the ballot, although Broderick suspended her campaign recently and endorsed McAdams.
Swensen said Thursday there would not be another update until Saturday. Now, she said, there will be no results released over the weekend. Ballots with issues can still be fixed by voters through 5 p.m. Monday, and ballots received by mail are counted through noon Tuesday, the day of the county's canvass of the election results.
McAdams, a former Salt Lake county mayor, won the seat in 2018 even though he lost in Utah, Juab and Sanpete counties, after provisional ballots gave him a 50.1% to 49.9% victory — less than 700 votes — over two-term Republican Rep. Mia Love
In Utah, a recount can be requested by the losing candidate only in races where the margin of victory is 0.25% or less.
The McAdams-Owens race is one of just seven nationwide for Congress that has yet to be called, according to the Cook Report, an independent and nonpartisan online publication based in Washington, D.C., that provides analysis of key political contests. It had rated Utah's 4th District a toss up since last August.
David Wasserman, the House editor for the Cook Report, tweeted, "Bad news for Dems in #UT04, as newly counted ballots expand Burgess Owens (R)'s lead over Rep. Ben McAdams (D) to 2,095 votes. Not too many ballots left to count...."
Wasserman had suggested in a post Friday that McAdams could still pull off a win, just as he did two years ago.
"As in 2018, McAdams will need an eleventh-hour comeback in the provisional ballots to win this GOP-leaning seat," Wasserman wrote, adding that "there could be around 7,000 ballots remaining to be counted in McAdams-leaning Salt Lake County, and it's not inconceivable they could erase Owens' lead."
Democrats will retain control of the House, but 10 Democratic incumbents have lost so far, all to Republican women and/or minorities, in California, Florida, Iowa, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma and South Carolina, Wasserman reported.
Besides Utah's 4th District, congressional races remain undecided in California, Iowa, New Jersey and New York, according to his post.