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Owens wins Utah’s 4th Congressional District

The Forum Election Watch 2020 includes updates and information on local and national races. (Lauren Shoughro)

Ben McAdams conceded the highly competitive House of Representative seat for Utah’s 4th Congressional District to Burgess Owens Monday.

The race had been too close to call since Nov. 3, but McAdams conceded in an online news conference at 3:30 p.m. Monday. The official vote canvass is Tuesday and results are expected to be finalized Nov. 23. 

As of Monday, Owens’ lead over McAdams seemed insurmountable, at 47.50% over McAdam’s 46.93%. 

“Today, I called Burgess Owens to congratulate him on winning this hard-fought and close race,” McAdams said. “My campaign was centered around a rejection of extremism and the need for leaders that will put the needs of the people they represent before any political party. I’m deeply humbled by the support I received from so many Utahns who share that vision and want you to know that while we did not prevail, I remain committed to that ideal.”

Created in 2010, the 4th Congressional District has consistently been a hotly contested election. McAdams narrowly won the seat by under 700 votes in 2018 and polls leading up to the 2020 election often predicted a toss-up

McAdams, seat incumbent and sole Democrat from Utah in Congress, often referred to himself as the most independent representative in Washington. He said a primary goal of his was to heal the harsh party divides both in Utah and the country at large.

McAdams’ ideas routinely clashed with those of his Republican challenger. Burgess Owens, new to political candidacy and a former NFL player, ran on deeply conservative views and was a vocal supporter of President Trump, appearing on FOX News as a commentator several times before running for candidacy.

McAdams said both the state and federal responses to the COVID-19 pandemic have failed Americans. He supported further financial relief for individuals and small businesses while advocating for fiscal responsibility.

Owens said government officials have done “a good job of bringing our society back,” and that it is time for individuals to take personal responsibility for the virus rather than push for broader mandates. He also said loans or pandemic relief aid ought to be closely monitored as to who “deserves” it. 

In the candidates’ Oct. 13 debate, Owens said that the Black Lives Matter movement is ultimately “against capitalism, against the nuclear family, and they’re against God.” Owens said several times that he aims to return the U.S. to a place that can prioritize God, country and family above all else. 

McAdams disagreed, arguing that the U.S. can celebrate its progress but must continue to address racial injustice. His campaign supported reforming — not defunding — police forces in response to George Floyd’s murder May 25. 

McAdams’ campaign similarly called for reforming “rather than just scrapping” the Affordable Care Act. McAdams emphasized the need to protect pre-existing conditions and criticized Owens’ past statements about repealing the ACA. 

Owens claimed he had never supported a total repeal of the ACA, despite previous statements posted on his website. 

He similarly claimed little-to-no knowledge about QAnon  — a baseless, far-right conspiracy theory alleging that many high-powered individuals are part of a supposed Satan-worshipping sex-trafficking ring — when asked about his past appearances on web shows with links to the group. 

The race drew national attention as outside entities poured funding into both sides and each major party considered the seat both winnable and important. 


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Marisa Cooper is a senior communication major with a psychology minor. She hopes to find a career path within public relations or journalism with time for a mindful work/life balance. As of late, she’s been exploring passions for embroidery, hiking, house plants and podcasts. Marisa is thrilled to take on the role of managing editor this year.

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