Vote gap between McAdams and Owens tightens as more ballots counted

(Kristin Murphy | Deseret News/pool) 4th Congressional District candidate Burgess Owens participates in a Utah Debate Commission debate with his opponent Rep. Ben McAdams, left, at the Triad Center in Salt Lake City on Monday, Oct. 12, 2020.

Editor’s note: When final votes were counted nearly two weeks after the election, Republican Burgess Owens won the election.

Election results released in Utah’s 4th Congressional District on Wednesday show the hotly contested race between Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams and Republican challenger Burgess Owens has tightened slightly and remains too close to call.

Unofficial ballot counts released late Tuesday night showed McAdams with 49.5% of the vote to Owens' 46%. On Wednesday, McAdams had 48.22% to Owens' 47.12%, the distance between them closing to just over 2,650 votes after new results were posted from Utah, Sanpete and Salt Lake counties.

It could take days or weeks until a clear winner emerges. McAdams, Utah’s only Democrat in Congress, won his seat in 2018 in a nail-biter race against Republican incumbent Rep. Mia Love that lasted until the final canvass that takes place two weeks after ballots are cast. He won by fewer than 700 votes.

“We continue to feel optimistic about the outcome in this race," McAdams' campaign manager Andrew Roberts said in a written statement on Wednesday. "We’re waiting for the additional election returns before commenting further. Ben is grateful for all the volunteers and supporters who stepped forward to help us this election.”

Jesse Ranney, Owens' campaign spokesman, said in a statement that the team “always knew this race would be close but were “feeling confident as more ballots come in that Burgess will be representing [the 4th District.]"

The 4th District straddles Salt Lake and Utah counties and also includes portions of the much smaller Juab and Sanpete counties. Owens performed better in the more conservative Utah County on Tuesday night, bringing in about 64% of the vote there. McAdams performed better in Salt Lake County, which has more Democrats and more moderate voters, with 56% of ballots in the race cast for him compared with 40% for Owens.

Those numbers shifted only slightly Wednesday afternoon, with McAdams bringing in 54% of the vote in Salt Lake County to Owens' 41%. In Utah County, Owens had 68% of the vote and McAdams had 28%. The Democratic congressman was also lagging behind Owens in Sanpete and Juab.

Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen said Wednesday morning that there were about 200,000 ballots remaining to be counted there, but it’s not clear how many of those were cast in the race between Owens and McAdams, whose district covers just a portion of the county. There are about 17,000 ballots left outstanding in Utah County in the 4th Congressional District, the county clerk’s office said Wednesday.