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Four Republicans Vying To Replace Utah's Lone Democrat In Congress Make Their Cases At Debate

Photo of the candidates standing behind podiums
Pool photo
Candidates Trent Christensen, Kim Coleman, Jay McFarland and Burgess Owens speak during the 4th District GOP Debate at the KUED studios on the University of Utah campus in Salt Lake City on Monday, June 1, 2020.

Four Republicans are vying to be the party’s choice to unseat Utah’s lone Democratic member of Congress, Rep. Ben McAdams. They made their cases to voters in the 4th Congressional District at a debate Monday.

Former KSL radio talk show host Jay Mcfarland is positioning himself as the moderate in the race. He argued that the district is moderate too, since it elected a Democrat in 2018, although by a slim margin of roughly 600 votes. 

“If you're a Republican, I think probably your number one concern this year is getting rid of Ben McAdams,” he said. “I believe that I have the greatest opportunity to do that because I've engaged in a nine year long conversation with Utahns about the issue … That’s who I am: somebody who can communicate with the other side and get things done.”

But state Rep. Kim Coleman, R-West Jordan, said the district is conservative. It’s rated as an R+13. Coleman is the only candidate who has held elected office.

“I've gone to our state capital and I voted constitutionally, conservatively for six years straight across the board,” she said. “If you vote for me, you don't have to vote and hope. You can vote for me and know.”

Former NFL player Burgess Owens is also positioning himself as a conservative. He said his strategy is to call out socialism in the Democratic party. 

“We're now dealing with pure evil throughout our country, just determined to destroy us,” Owens said. “This is the time for us to get together, come together and beat these socialists and Marxists.”

Trent Christensen, a businessman and former fundraiser for U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, said he’ll win the seat back by focusing on jobs. 

“I don't think the people of Salt Lake, Utah, Juab and Sanpete county care who's a Marxist or a socialist,” Christensen said. “They want to keep their job and they want to get their job back and they want to open their small business.”

The primary election is June 30, and the registration deadline is June 19. Voting will take place entirely by mail, except in San Juan County. Seven counties will have drive-up options to pick up ballots.

Sonja Hutson covers politics for KUER. Follow her on Twitter @SonjaHutson

Sonja Hutson is a politics and government reporter at KUER.
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