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Will Rep. Burgess Owens show up to 4th Congressional District debate?

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Rep. Burgess Owens, R-Utah, greets supporters at an event for candidates in the GOP primary election.

Rep. Burgess Owens, R-Utah, greets supporters at an event for candidates in the GOP primary election at the Awaken Event Center in South Jordan on Tuesday, June 28, 2022. Will Owens participate in Wednesday’s Utah Debate Commission event?

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Republican Rep. Burgess Owens might be a no-show for the only scheduled debate in Utah’s 4th Congressional District race, a pattern he set during the primary election.

A day before the scheduled event, the Utah Debate Commission put out a statement saying Owens has not confirmed that he will take part in the debate at the University of Utah on Wednesday night.

The commission is “still planning on full attendance at the 4th Congressional District debate, and is looking forward to meaningful dialogue with the candidates that do participate,” according to executive director Erik Nielsen.

Owens’ campaign did not immediately respond to questions about whether the congressman would participate.


Fourth District congressional candidate Jake Hunsaker answers questions next to an empty podium during a GOP primary debate in a KSL studio in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, June 1, 2022. Hunsaker’s opponent, Rep. Burgess Owens, R-Utah, declined to participate in the debate sponsored by the Utah Debate Commission.

Rick Egan

Owens skipped the Utah Debate Commission debate during the primary election after state GOP Chairman Carson Jorgensen advised Republican candidates not to participate. He also failed to agree to take part in a Utah Republican Party debate in May. The Owens campaign said at the time that it was looking for other dates before the primary in June but that didn’t materialize.

Democrat Darlene McDonald and United Utah Party candidate January Walker ripped Owens on Tuesday. Both would appear on the debate stage without him should he not show up. Salt Lake Tribune executive editor Lauren Gustus will be the moderator.

McDonald said in a tweet that Owens is “terrified of being held accountable, terrified of having to be in front of Darlene, and he’s terrified of his constituents. Burgess Owens we still encourage you to show up.”

The McDonald campaign also issued a statement encouraging the first-term congressman to “rethink this cowardly behavior and do the honorable thing by being held accountable to those constituents he purports to represent as is outlined in his duties in the Constitution of the United States.”

Walker said in a tweet that “real men know how to debate more than they know how to use a gun,” apparently referring to a comment Owens made in a speech last year that “real men” know how to use a gun as they do an iPhone.

“Refusing to go before constituents is an absolute manifestation of your corruption & incompetency for the job,” Walker continued in the tweet. “You’ll regret not joining us on stage when I’m done.”

McDonald also sent out a bingo card for voters as they watch the debate on local TV stations Wednesday. It includes spaces to mark for words and phrases Owens might use such as “coming for your guns,” “Marxist” and “CRT.” The center square read, “Burgess Owens’ no-show.”