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Utah GOP drafts former NFL defensive back to reclaim House seat Democrats picked off in '18

Stephanie Akin, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in News & Features

Former NFL player Burgess Owens will take on vulnerable Utah Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams in November after winning a four-way GOP primary Tuesday in the 4th District.

With 77% of precincts reporting, Owens was leading state Rep. Kim Coleman, 43% to 24%, when The Associated Press called the race at 10:12 p.m. Mountain time.

Owens is one of only a handful of Black Republicans on the ballot this cycle. The GOP has struggled to increase the diversity of its ranks, and its only current Black House member, Texas Rep. Will Hurd, is retiring.

A frequent guest on Fox News, Owens has spoken about how growing up in the segregated South taught him to appreciate American values, which he says are now threatened by "enemy" Marxist and socialist-driven policies.

"(Democrats have) done nothing but divide us. Everything they say is about division. It's Black and white. It's rich and poor. It's whatever they can do to divide us," Owens told the Deseret News.

He was the top fundraiser in a race that was largely overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic and a competitive Republican gubernatorial primary, even though the district --which Trump carried by 7 points in 2016 -- is a prime GOP target.

McAdams, the former Salt Lake County mayor, won by less than 1 point in 2018, unseating Rep. Mia Love, who was the first Black Republican woman in Congress.

Owens had raised $638,000 as of June 10 and had $111,000 left in the bank.


He was one of the only candidates in the primary to attract outside support. A group called American Values First spent about $15,000 on phone calls on his behalf and Patriots, Liberty & Prosperity PAC, which, according to its website, supports conservative candidates who advance "America-first" policies, spending about $3,000 on digital ads.

Coleman, who had Love's endorsement, benefited from $80,000 in outside support from a handful of groups that support hard-line conservative candidates.

McAdams, who was unopposed in his primary, had $2.2 million in his campaign account on June 10.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the general election "tilts Democratic."

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