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Who did Donald Trump just endorse in Utah GOP primary races?

SHARE Who did Donald Trump just endorse in Utah GOP primary races?
Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, speaks at Utah Eagle Forum’s annual convention at Salt Lake Community College in Sandy.

Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, speaks during Utah Eagle Forum’s annual convention at Salt Lake Community College in Sandy on Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022. Former President Donald Trump has endorsed Stewart and fellow Rep. Burgess Owens.

Mengshin Lin, Deseret News

Former President Donald Trump endorsed two incumbent Utah congressmen Monday, a day before the Republican primary election.

Reps. Chris Stewart and Burgess Owens both face GOP challengers but both are expected to win Tuesday.

Describing Stewart as a “conservative warrior,” Trump called the five-term congressman a “tireless advocate” for Utah’s 2nd Congressional District.

“A retired U.S. Air Force pilot who set world records in flight, Chris knows how to Defend our Country, Support our Brave Veterans, and Ensure Peace Through Strength. In Congress, Chris is working hard to Secure the Border, Protect our Second Amendment, Grow the Economy, and Restore American Energy Independence,” Trump said in a statement.

In a debate last month with his opponent, Erin Rider, Stewart said Trump told him he would endorse his reelection bid but that he hadn’t asked the former president to back him.

“I don’t think it matters much, honestly. In some races, it does. But I think I can win this race on my own,” he said.

Rider, a Salt Lake lawyer, said she did not vote for Trump in 2020 because although she liked a lot of his policies, she didn’t care for his leadership. She said in the debate that she probably wouldn’t turn down a Trump endorsement.

Where they stand on Trump was about the only point of disagreement between Rider and Stewart in their one debate. They were largely on the same page regarding gun issues, inflation and illegal immigration.

Trump called Owens a “fantastic” representative for the state’s 4th Congressional District.

“I campaigned with Burgess to flip this seat in 2020, and I am proud to support him again,” the former president said in a statement.

Donald Trump Jr., the former president’s top surrogate, appeared in Utah for Owens during that election, but Trump himself didn’t come to the state. Owens, who is seeking a second term, beat incumbent Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams two years ago in a close race.

“Burgess is a former Super Bowl Champion who knows how to win. In Congress, he is working hard to Grow the Economy, Support our Veterans, Defend the Second Amendment, Protect Life, Uphold the Rule of Law, and Provide our Children with Excellent Education,” Trump said.

Challenger Jake Hunsaker has called Owens an absentee congressman who sees the electoral process as a threat to his “game of toxic celebrity politics” rather than an essential piece of American democracy. Owens refused to participate in debates with Hunsaker, even one the Utah Republican Party sought to organize.

“His sense of entitlement is astounding and incredibly insulting to voters in our district,” Hunsaker tweeted Monday.

Hunsaker earlier said he wasn’t expecting Trump to back him and that he doesn’t need his endorsement.

“I’m not worried, because voters here are tired of outside funding, outside endorsements, and outside influence,” Hunsaker said of Trump supporting Owens. “I want endorsements from people who don’t have a track record of losing elections.”

In April, Trump endorsed Utah GOP Sen. Mike Lee, who faces primary challenges from Ally Isom and Becky Edwards. Neither Lee, an ardent Trump supporter, nor his campaign has mentioned the former president leading up to Tuesday’s election.