AP

Four Republican congressman up for re-election in Utah

Nov 8, 2022, 5:00 AM | Updated: 8:55 pm

U.S. Rep. Burgess Owens, left, and Democrat Darlene McDonald shake hands following their debate Fri...

U.S. Rep. Burgess Owens, left, and Democrat Darlene McDonald shake hands following their debate Friday, Oct. 28, 2022, in South Jordan, Utah, in their first and only meeting in the lead-up to the midterm elections. First-term Republican Owens elected not to participate in a televised Utah Debate Commission event earlier this month. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah’s four congressmen were expected to cruise to victory in Tuesday’s midterm elections after Republican state lawmakers redrew the state’s political maps that expanded the party’s advantage.

The political and demographic landscape had long made three of the state’s four congressional districts almost sure bets for Republicans. But, the other district that covers a suburban swath extending south from Salt Lake City through several cities including West Jordan, Lehi and Saratoga Springs had usually been up for grabs, drawing national interest, piles of glossy campaign mailers and recurring attack ads on local television during college football and Major League Baseball’s World Series.

Not this year.

Republican Burgess Owens, a former NFL player and one of two Black Republicans in the U.S House of Representatives, is heavily favored to win the race in the 4th Congressional District against Democrat Darlene McDonald even though he narrowly defeated Democrat Ben McAdams in 2020.

Former President Donald Trump won the same district by nine percentage points in 2020, but would have won by 26 percentage points under its newly drawn boundaries.

Owens and Rep. John Curtis awaited results with supporters at a Utah Republican Party event in Salt Lake City, where guests sipped non-alcoholic ginger beer and mountain dew as a band played classic rock and Fox News broadcast results from eastern states on a stageside projector screen.

Though polls were scheduled to close at 8 p.m., Lieutenant Gov. Deidre Henderson said she expected 30 to 45 minutes of delays so voters in line could cast their ballots. Her office had warned results may be late to publish as several counties expected more in-person voters than usual due to late arriving mail ballots. The vast majority of Utah voters cast ballots by mail.

As a result, both candidates and independent political action committees that traditionally support their campaigns have invested less in engaging Utah voters. Outside groups spent $14.3 million to support and attack McAdams and Owens in 2020, according to Open Secrets. This year, outside groups have spent a scant $173,000.

In 2020, Owens and McAdams’ campaigns collectively spent $9.8 million. This year, Owens had spent $3.4 million as of Oct. 19, while McDonald had spent $114,000 — much of which came from $104,000 in funds she personally lent her campaign.

“When a district is not as competitive, candidates don’t have to worry about appealing to voters in order to hold on to their job,” said McAdams, who now works at a University of Utah center focused on social impact investing and last year founded his own organization to bridge political divides.

He noted that public events like townhalls are less commonplace in safer districts.

Owens skipped scheduled televised debates in the lead-up to the primary election and last month. He ultimately participated in a untelevised, candidate-organized substitute debate, where he and McDonald agreed on very little with each largely echoing their party’s talking points on inflation, abortion and infrastructure spending.

McAdams and Mia Love, his Republican predecessor who represented the district from 2015 to 2019, attempted to cultivate reputations as moderates and distinguish themselves from their parties at times. Departing from that pattern, Owens in television advertisements and at the debate focused on critical race theory, his opposition to transgender kids playing women’s sports and “Leftists” co-opting school curriculums and institutions like the military with ideology he considers dangerous.

Utah is not the only state where redistricting changed the political landscape. States such as Oklahoma and Arkansas, where Democrats previously saw some sort of path to victory in one congressional district now have no races expected to be competitive.

Owens converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints near the end of his career in the NFL. He spent part of his childhood growing up in segregation-era Florida and its on the House Committee on Education and Labor and the Judiciary Committee, which oversaw impeachment proceedings against Trump.

McDonald, who is also Black, is an author and community activist focused on education and racial inequities in Utah. She’s previously run for office twice, unsuccessfully.

Katie Wright, the executive director of the Utah-based anti-gerrymandering group Better Boundaries, said she believes the districts were “purposefully drawn to elevate the voice of some voters and dilute the voice of other voters.”

“I fear that this will create apathy and impact voter turnout,” Wright said.

Republicans who drew the districts have defended them, noting the state’s constitution gives lawmakers elected by voters — rather than a panel of appointees — redistricting power. They also highlight how the new congressional map puts urban and rural voters in every district in a way that reflects Utah’s character.

Utah’s other three incumbent U.S House members are also expected to notch easy victories.

In the state’s 1st Congressional District, a northern Utah area that includes Ogden and Logan, Moore faces a challenge from Democrat Rick Jones.

In Utah’s 2nd Congressional District, which spans from St. George through the Salt Lake City suburbs, Stewart is pitted against Democrat Nick Mitchell and two other candidates.

In the 3rd Congressional District, Curtis is running against Democrat Glenn Wright and three other candidates.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

A woman pauses while shopping at a Kohl's store in Clifton, N.J., Jan. 26, 2024. On Thursday, Feb. ...

Associated Press

Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation gauge picked up last month in sign of still-elevated prices

An inflation gauge favored by the Federal Reserve increased in January, the latest sign that the slowdown in U.S. consumer price increases is occurring unevenly from month to month.

20 hours ago

This undated image provided by Mikel Desmond shows his brother Marcus Tessier, who turned up in Dem...

Associated Press

Missing teen with autism found in New Mexico, about 200 miles away from his Arizona home

A missing teen with autism has been found in New Mexico — about 200 miles away from his home in southern Arizona.

21 hours ago

A newly released report on last year’s fatal crash involving a pickup truck and a group of bicycl...

Associated Press

Report suggests steering of vehicle that caused fatal Goodyear bicycle crash worked fine

A new report on last year’s fatal Goodyear bicycle crash has cast doubts about the driver’s claim the vehicle’s steering locked up.

2 days ago

Israeli Embassy...

Associated Press

US airman dies after setting himself ablaze outside Israeli Embassy in Israel-Hamas war protest

An active-duty member of the U.S. Air Force has died after he set himself ablaze outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C.

4 days ago

Biden and Trump to visit Mexico border Thursday immigration...

Associated Press

Biden and Trump both plan trips to the Mexico border Thursday, dueling for advantage on immigration

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump will make dueling trips to the U.S-Mexico border on Thursday.

4 days ago

Arizona and New York attorneys feud over extraditing suspect...

Associated Press

Why Alvin Bragg and Rachel Mitchell are fighting over extraditing suspect in New York hotel killing

Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell says she isn't into extraditing a suspect due to her lack of faith in Manhattan’s top prosecutor.

8 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.

...

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Day & Night is looking for the oldest AC in the Valley

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.

...

Fiesta Bowl Foundation

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade is excitingly upon us

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe is upon us! The attraction honors Arizona and the history of the game.

Four Republican congressman up for re-election in Utah