Burgess Owens hailed as victor by conservatives, many of whom refuse to call Joe Biden president-elect

(Rick Egan | Tribune file photo) In this Nov. 3, 2020, file photo, Republican Burgess Owens talks to the media at the GOP election headquarters, at the Utah Association of Realtors office in Sandy.

A who’s who of conservative celebrities, politicians and pundits are pouring out congratulations to Utah congressional candidate Burgess Owens, a Republican who appears to have an insurmountable lead over first-term Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams.

McAdams has not conceded the race and a few thousand votes are left to be counted, but that didn’t stop conservatives, most prominently President Donald Trump, from rushing to praise Owens as the winner.

The president and many of those weighing in on Utah’s closely fought 4th District race still haven’t acknowledged former Vice President Joe Biden as victor in the presidential contest and are actively fighting those claims.

Among those cheering Owens, a die-hard Trump supporter, is Utah Sen. Mike Lee.

“Congratulations @BurgessOwens! Looking forward to talking with you in DC next week!” Lee tweeted Saturday morning — nearly 12 hours after Trump recognized Owens as the winner and called him a “STAR.”

Lee has declined to acknowledge Biden’s win, which has been called by The Associated Press and most news organizations, and has been recognized by many foreign leaders and a small but slowly growing number of Republican officeholders, including Utah Gov.-elect Spencer Cox, Sen. Mitt Romney and Rep. John Curtis.

Lee, in a tweet six days after the election, cautiously said, “I look forward to working with whichever candidate emerges as the winner at the end of the process.” He has not gone beyond that in ensuing days, as recently as Friday tweeting, “No matter who the next president is I think we can all agree this was a closely contested & divisive election.”

The AP has not called Utah’s 4th District race and Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen has said ballots awaiting resolutions of questionable signatures and even late-arriving by-mail ballots, if they have a postmark of Nov. 2 or earlier, would still count in the official canvass set for Tuesday.

The Salt Lake Tribune has described Owens as the apparent winner of the race and the conservative website Breitbart.com cited Tribune reporting to go further and declare unconditionally that “Owens defeats Democrat Rep. Ben McAdams.”

It was that Breitbart story that the president linked to in his tweet congratulating Owens late Friday night.

Other prominent Trump supporters who have backed the president’s unsubstantiated claims of widespread fraud and irregularities in the presidential vote count also wasted no time recognizing Owens as yet another case of a Republican flipping a Democratic seat.

Among them are Fox Business host Lou Dobbs; conservative author Dinesh D’Souza; radio talk host Bernard Kerik, a former New York City police commissioner; former Trump White House spokesman and now radio host Sean Spicer; Trump campaign adviser and Donald Trump Jr. girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle; Trump adviser Bruce Levell; and actresses Kirstie Alley and Kristy Swanson.