Jay McFarland, a former KSL NewsRadio pundit who hosted the “JayMac News Show,” plans to challenge Ben McAdams next year in Utah’s 4th Congressional District.
In a news release Thursday, McFarland’s team described the candidate as someone who “passionately fought for compassion, understanding, and respect in a world of ever-increasing political polarization" during his nine years at the Salt Lake City-based radio station, which is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“How can you change hearts and minds when you use biting tactics?” McFarland’s announcement asked. “Now the time for talk is over. Jay is turning talk into action by announcing his candidacy.”
McFarland told The Tribune on Thursday that he got into radio because he wanted to have an impact on public debate. And as his children have gotten older, McFarland said, he has become increasingly concerned with the country that will be handed off to the next generation.
And while he lacks traditional political credentials, he said his experience and perspective as a former talk radio host give him an ideal background for a congressman.
“Being in Congress is about the battle of ideas,” McFarland said.
McFarland is the third Republican candidate to formally announce his candidacy, following political activist Kathleen Anderson and Army veteran John Molnar. Several other Republicans are publicly considering a run, including former Congresswoman Mia Love; state Rep. Kim Coleman, R-West Jordan; and Utah County Commissioner Nathan Ivie.
A third-party candidate, United Utah’s Jonia Broderick, has also entered the race.
The 4th District, straddling Salt Lake and Utah counties, is the state’s most competitive, although it still leans Republican. McAdams, the only Democrat in Utah’s congressional delegation, won the seat by a margin of fewer than 800 votes in 2018.
Andrew Roberts, McAdams’ campaign manager, said Utah voters appreciate the approach the congressman has taken to building bridges and solving problems.
“They recognize his commitment to listening to constituents from both sides of the aisle," Roberts said, "and then working together to get things done on the issues that matter most to us here in Utah.”
Asked about his potential opponent, McFarland said that McAdams is “a nice guy,” but someone who doesn’t represent the core values of the 4th District.
McFarland, who lives in Herriman, said he disagrees with McAdams’ belief that the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, is something that can be fixed. And McFarland said he’s more broadly concerned with how “the left” wants to hand states’ rights over to the federal government.
“I don’t believe they’ve earned the right to run our programs,” McFarland said. “They can’t run what they have now.”
In addition to states’ rights, McFarland said he’s focused on protecting the rights of gun owners — he is a concealed carry permit holder — while still promoting solutions to gun violence and mass shootings, like so-called “red flag” laws that would allow a person’s weapons to be seized under court order if they are determined to be a threat to themselves or others.
“As long as it is focused on actions,” he said, “not just anybody who holds a firearm, and as long as due process is involved.”
His campaign website also includes a proposed framework for immigration reform, which would combine increased border security and the termination of so-called “sanctuary cities” with the requirement that individuals currently in the country illegally pay a fine or face deportation. If that fine is paid, his plan calls for allowing Dreamers and immigrants without a criminal history to remain in the country and for changes to be made to the immigration system to improve the process of legal entry.
“I believe it satisfies all sides,” he said, “but it also requires a little bit of compromise from all sides.”
McFarland stepped down from his position at KSL last month when rumors began circulating that he was eyeing a congressional run. He said stepping down from his talk show was one of the hardest decisions he’s ever made and acknowledged that he may not be able to return to his former career if his campaign is unsuccessful.
“That, honestly, is how strongly I feel about my ability to bring change to our current system,” he said. “I’m willing to go all in. And all in means all in.”