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Election news from across Utah's statewide and national races in 2020.

4th Congressional District Candidates On Bipartisanship, COVID-19 And Obamacare

A side-by-side photo collage of Ben McAdams and Burgess Owens.
Headshots Courtesy of McAdams and Owens Campaigns
Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams and Republican Burgess Owens are running to represent Utah’s 4th Congressional District.

Utah’s 4th Congressional District is a battleground for national Democrats and Republicans. The incumbent, Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams won by less than 700 votes in 2018. Republican and former NFL player Burgess Owens is challenging him.

The district is rated as a toss up by the Cook Political Report.

Ben McAdams

Congressman Ben McAdams’ campaign slogan is “People Over Party” and he says it’s something he lives up to in Washington, D.C.

“I am an independent voice for Utahns,” McAdams told KUER. “I build relationships across the aisle and I don't hesitate to stand alone if that's what's good for Utah, even if it means standing against my own party.”

Republicans push back against this argument, pointing out that McAdams votes with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi 85% of the time — like when he voted to impeach President Trump. But, that’s less often than almost all other Democrats who represent districts that voted for Trump. And, for those keeping score, McAdams breaks from his party more than Utah’s Republican representatives do.

McAdams said he’s glad both parties in Congress were able to come together earlier this year though to pass the pandemic relief legislation known as the CARES Act.

It’s an issue that he’s focused on. McAdams also supported legislation that would have required the government to disclose which businesses got Paycheck Protection Program loans. He said more of those loans are necessary going forward.

“It'd be best if that could be targeted to those businesses and individuals and families that are really feeling the hardship for one reason or another,” he said.

McAdams has also called on the federal government to come up with a better plan to get the virus under control.

“Going forward, we need a smart plan that will help to slow the spread of this virus with testing and development of a vaccine and distribution of a vaccine,” he said.

McAdams said he wants to continue working across the aisle to lower healthcare costs, without repealing the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

“The ACA wasn't perfect by any means, but at a time when millions of people are losing jobs and losing health care, it should be strengthened and improved, not repealed,” McAdams said.

He points to a bill he co-sponsored last year that makes it easier for drug companies to create generic versions of prescription medication. McAdams also supports reinsurance programs, essentially insurance plans for insurance companies, to help bring down the costs of premiums.

Burgess Owens

Until at least the end of August, McAdams’ challenger Burgess Owens’ campaign website said he supported repealing the Affordable Care Act. It now says that thelaw does not need to be repealed.

Owens did not respond to an interview request for this story or to KUER’s general election candidate survey, but the former NFL player floated some suggestions on how to improve the healthcare system at a debate Monday.

“Other things we're looking at are things like transparency,” Owens said during the debate. “How about portability? Whether you're working at a particular job or not, it is your income, your insurance instead of theirs. You can take it with you.”

Owens also praised Trump’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the White House’s Operation Warp Speed, which gave money to drug companies to develop vaccines. He said Monday the country needs to continue to open up, not shut down.

“[We need] to make sure that we're getting people back in business and back in school and those things that really make our country what it is, to continue to dream and hope,” he said.

Owens also called for a more targeted approach to any further financial aid related to the pandemic, but in a very different way from McAdams.

“Not for the blue states that want to get bailed out, because of the way they have dealt [with] things in the past, they don't deserve that right now,” he said.

While McAdams has sought to distance himself from Democratic party leadership, Owens has embraced Republican leadership. He spoke at the Republican National Convention and is a strong supporter of President Trump.

He told KUER in June, “I’m loyal to anyone who's loyal to my God, country, family and other Americans, period. And Trump has shown to be the most loyal president that we’ve ever seen since President Reagan. He could care less about power, fame and wealth.”

Owens has also called leaders of the Democratic party narcissists and socialists who love misery.

“When I talk about the misery that has been used as a political strategy, I've seen it for decades,” Owens said during Monday’s debate. “You see in the black communities where you have murder going crazy, you have 75% of the black boys in the state of California cannot pass standard reading or writing tests.”

Utah’s voter registration deadline is Oct. 23 and Election Day is Nov. 3.

To learn more about McAdams and Owens' positions, check out KUER’s voter guide.

Republican former NFL player Burgess Owens is challenging first-term Congressman Ben McAdams, the state’s only Democrat in Congress. McAdams unseated the previous incumbent, Republican Mia Love, in 2018 by a razor-thin margin of less than 700 votes. The race is listed as a toss-up by the Cook Political Report, and is a priority for national Republicans and Democrats.

Sonja Hutson is a politics and government reporter at KUER.
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