His opponent struck a different tone.
Owens, a frequent Fox News commentator who has aligned himself with President Donald Trump throughout the race, said he has friends on “both sides of the aisle." But he said the American people also have to recognize that “there’s truly an enemy at our door.”
“There are people in leadership of Democratic Party [who] do not have the same end game we have, guys," he concluded. "They want to take away our rights for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and it’s important to recognize that. If my opponent thinks he can kind of go along and just be OK with that, then he’s been complicit.”
McAdams characterized Owens' words about his party as “troubling” and said they reflected “a clear distinction" between the two candidates.
“I think if we’re going to heal what’s broken in Washington — and we know it’s broken — we don’t need name-calling and finger-pointing," he said. "We need listening and people that realize we have so much more in common than what divides us. And that’s how I’ve served and how I’ll continue to serve.”
McAdams' comments Monday reflect the reality that in order to retain his seat, he will likely need the support of some conservatives and many independents in the swing district, which leans Republican but has a high number of moderates as it straddles Salt Lake and Utah counties.
Owens, on the other hand, appears to be counting on the strong conservative vote to carry him through.
“He’s not voting for the district; he’s voting for the Pelosi plan," Owens said.
Owens, who expressed support for reforming the decade-old health care law, said that removing protections for the roughly 133 million Americans with preexisting conditions is “off the table.”
“Both sides of the aisle agree that’s a good part of the Obamacare Act,” he said.
McAdams, who expressed concerns that Republicans will wipe out the Affordable Care Act, along with its protection for patients with preexisting conditions, accused Owens of flip-flopping on the issue, noting that the candidate’s website had previously expressed a different view.
“I’m glad to hear my opponent, Mr. Owens, talk about the need to protect people with preexisting conditions," he said. "But Mr. Owens, your website, up until three weeks ago, talked about removing protections for people with preexisting conditions and that’s troubling for me, because I know a lot of people who rely on those protections for their life-sustaining medicine.”
Owens disputed that and said McAdams was using the issue as a way to sow “fear” among voters.
“If I saw that on my website I would be concerned, too. It never said that, friends,” he fired back. “I’m a cancer survivor. I understand what preexisting conditions [are] all about.”
The Trump administration has joined a court challenge to the Affordable Care Act, which seeks to strike it down as unconstitutional.
During the debate Monday, Owens was also put on the defensive in answering a question about campaign appearances tied to the fringe QAnon conspiracy theory.
“It doesn’t matter because it doesn’t reflect what I’m doing right now,” he added.
McAdams noted that QAnon has been labeled by the FBI as “a dangerous conspiracy theory" and criticized Owens for a “pattern of bad judgment.”
“Mr. Owens, you appeared on that show, a QAnon show, once and said you didn’t know what it was and you said you’d have to Google it,” he said. “Well, a few months later you went back on another QAnon show and again, you just said tonight you’re not sure what it is. At what point are you responsible for the decisions you make?"
While the debate presented the opportunity for voters to see the daylight between the two candidates on a number of issues, there was at least one thing they both appeared to agree on: opposition to a statewide mask mandate.
McAdams, who commended Herbert’s leadership on the coronavirus in Utah, didn’t answer the question outright but encouraged Utahns to “take responsibility for our actions and help do our part to help slow the spread of the virus and protect those who might be vulnerable.”
Owens, who was more explicit in his opposition to a statewide mandate, also used the language of “personal responsibility" to make his case and said requirements should be left to businesses.
In remarks to reporters after the debate, Owens said that “every American should get COVID money" and said he was talking about nonpandemic-related federal dollars that could be snuck into a relief package to “bail out” blue cities and states.
The election between McAdams and Owens will take place on Nov. 3, with ballots mailed out to voters this week — and election officials encouraging voters to fill them out and return them early. Ballots can be postmarked no later than Nov. 2 to be counted.