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Ben McAdams ahead of Burgess Owens in 4th District money race

With primary behind him, Republican challenger likely to see more money coming in

Republican Burgess Owens, a former NFL player, left, and Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, who are running for McAdams’ seat in the 4th Congressional District.
Republican Burgess Owens, a former NFL player, left, and Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, who are running for McAdams’ seat in the 4th Congressional District.
Kristin Murphy and Colter Peterson, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s only Democrat in Congress, Rep. Ben McAdams, currently has a significant financial edge over his 4th Congressional District Republican opponent, Burgess Owens, according to the latest federal financial disclosures.

McAdams reported having more than $2.6 million in cash on hand as of June 30, the close of the last Federal Election Commission reporting period, while Owens, a former NFL player and frequent Fox News guest, had just under $91,000 available to spend.

But June 30 was also the day of Utah’s GOP primary election, which Owens won with nearly 44% of the vote over three other Republicans — state Rep. Kim Coleman, R-West Jordan; former KSL Newsradio host Jay Mcfarland; and nonprofit CEO Trent Christensen.

And now that Owens has secured his party’s nomination, there’s little doubt his campaign will start seeing more money. He ended up raising a total of more than $767,000 in advance of the primary, including just over $128,000 between June 11-30, while McAdams brought in almost $567,000 during those same few weeks.

McAdams, who won the seat in 2018 from a Republican, former two-term Rep. Mia Love, by less than 700 votes, has been targeted as one of the country’s most vulnerable members of Congress running for reelection, and national GOP organizations, including President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign, have already gone after him.

The race will only become more intense as the general election nears. Earlier this year, the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC dedicated to electing Republicans to Congress, reserved some $825,000 in airtime in Utah this fall, while the Democrats’ House Majority PAC has reserved $900,000 in commercial spots.

On Thursday, the Republicans’ Congressional Leadership Fund shared poll results — but not the poll itself — showing Owens leading McAdams, 43% to 34%. Trailing were Libertarian John Molnar, with 5%, and the United Utah Party’s Jonia Broderick, with less than half a percent, and 15% said they didn’t know.

The poll was conducted by The Moore Information Group, which counts Republicans in the West and other parts of the country among its clients, on July 8, 9 and 11 among 400 likely general voters in the district and has a margin of error of plus or minus 5%, according to information supplied by the super PAC.

“Ben McAdams continues to be among the most vulnerable Democrats in the entire country,” the Congressional Leadership Fund’s spokesman, Calvin Moore, said. “With poll numbers this bad, no amount of money will be enough to cover up how he’s abandoned Utah families and embraced the radical left’s socialist agenda.”

McAdams’ campaign manager, Andrew Roberts, dismissed the poll.

“The poll is bogus and an obvious attempt by Mr. Owens’ friends in Washington to distract from his extreme politics such as his absolute support for President Trump’s plan to resume the nuclear weapons testing that harmed so many Utahns and their families. We don’t give this poll any credence.”

Some key national analysts continue to favor McAdams in the race, even though Republicans hold an advantage in the 4th District that includes portions of Salt Lake and Utah counties. Both “The Cook Political Report,” based in Washington, D.C., and the University of Virginia’s “Sabato’s Crystal Ball” rate the district as “leans Democratic.”

Owens, who often speaks of the country facing Marxist and socialist enemies, may be too extreme for the district, “The Cook Political Report” House Editor David Wasserman suggested recently, calling his rhetoric attractive to the GOP base, but not likely “to connect with independents who make up the difference in this district.”

The candidates are already gearing up for what is anticipated to be the most competitive general election race in Utah.

Owens spokesman Jesse Ranney downplayed the difference in the size of their campaign accounts.

“No amount of money can hide the fact that Ben McAdams votes with the radical left over 80% of the time,” Ranney said. “Burgess has received an outpouring of support and looks forward to sharing his message of unity and respect with the voters of Utah. Meanwhile, Ben McAdams has remained silent on the most important issues facing the 4th Congressional District.”

Roberts, McAdams’ campaign manager, said: “We’ve always known this would be a competitive race, and while we’re pleased with how it’s shaping up, the congressman isn’t taking anything for granted and will continue to work hard for every vote.”