Fourth Congressional District candidate Burgess Owens, who is running against Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, does an interview at a Republican election night event at the Utah Association of Realtors building in Sandy on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
Latest vote count doesn’t include updated results from Salt Lake County
SALT LAKE CITY — Republican Burgess Owens took the lead from Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams in the latest 4th Congressional District results released Thursday as ballots cast in the largely by-mail election continue to be counted.
Owens, a former NFL player, author and frequent Fox News guest, now has 48.1% to McAdams’ 47.15% in the district that includes portions of Salt Lake, Utah, Sanpete and Juab counties, with 251,000 votes counted. McAdams, a first-term congressman, had been in front Wednesday by more than 2,600 votes.
The new numbers come only from Utah County, but Salt Lake County, where most of the district’s residents live, isn’t scheduled to update results until 4 p.m. and other counties, at 5 p.m. McAdams, a former Salt Lake County mayor, was able to defeat two-term GOP Rep. Mia Love in 2018 by winning only in Salt Lake County.
The 4th District race is considered one of the nation’s most competitive because the district leans Republican but is represented by Utah’s only Democrat in Congress. Two years ago, it took two weeks before the race was called for McAdams, who ended up less than 700 votes ahead of Love.
Utah Democratic Party Chairman Jeff Merchant said he believes McAdams will be reelected once all the votes are counted, but compared it to the close race for the White House between Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic former Vice President Joe Biden.
“This is a country and a community that is split. The 4th District, as I’ve said before, is specifically designed to be difficult for a Democrat to win,” Merchant said, blaming the boundaries drawn by the GOP-controlled Utah Legislature a decade ago. “It just comes down to being patient and waiting.”
Utah GOP Chairman Derek Brown also said it could be sometime next week before a winner can be declared in “arguably the most negative campaign ever run in the history of Utah and the most expensive.”
He predicted the margin of victory will turn out to be even smaller than it was two years ago.
“We have always known that this would be a very close race,” Brown said. “I do remain optimistic. But it’s cautious optimism.”
More than $22 million has been spent on the race, much of it by outside Republican and Democratic groups on attack ads that filled Utah airwaves for weeks. That total includes the $8.5 million McAdams and Owens reported spending just through mid-October.
Lisa Riley Roche