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McAdams retakes the lead over Owens in roller-coaster race for Utah’s 4th District

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams, looking to retain his seat for Utah’s 4th Congressional District, conducts an interview as he keeps an eye on vote count from his small election watch party at Pat’s BBQ in Salt Lake City, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020.

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

Rep. Ben McAdams has regained his lead over Republican Burgess Owens in the roller-coaster race for Utah’s 4th Congressional District after new ballots were released Friday.

The candidates are now separated by a margin of 405 votes, with McAdams bringing in 47.60% of the vote to Owens' 47.46%. It could take days before a clear winner emerges.

Owens, a first-time political candidate, took his first lead in the nail-biter race Thursday, ending the day with a 2,284-vote advantage after trailing McAdams since Election Day.

“Again, we’re seeing numbers go back and forth as additional votes are tallied,” Andrew Roberts, McAdams’ campaign manager, said in a statement on Friday. “We remain confident that Ben will be reelected. We are grateful to Utah’s election clerks for their deliberate, thorough work on behalf of Utah voters and candidates.”

The Owens campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.

The election has long been expected to be one of the most competitive in the nation, based both on polling and the margin with which McAdams wrested the seat from Republican control two years ago.

That race between him and Republican incumbent Rep. Mia Love lasted until the final canvass that takes place two weeks after ballots are cast. When the dust had settled, he’d won by fewer than 700 votes, spurred along by a number of high-profile ballot initiatives that turned out more Democratic voters.

The 4th District straddles Salt Lake and Utah counties and also includes portions of the much smaller Juab and Sanpete counties. Owens, a frequent Fox News commentator and former NFL player, has performed better in the latter three counties. McAdams has taken a higher percentage of the votes in Salt Lake County, which has more Democrats and more moderate voters and where he used to serve as county mayor.

Election data in Utah County shows Owens has captured 67.17% of the vote there, while McAdams has brought in 26.71%. The picture is flipped in Salt Lake County, where McAdams had 54.26% of the vote to Owens' 40.97% as of Friday afternoon.

As of Friday afternoon, there were as many as 119,000 ballots remaining to be counted in Salt Lake County, though it’s not clear how many of those were cast in the race between Owens and McAdams. There were a few hundred ballots left outstanding in Utah County in the 4th Congressional District.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Burgess Owens talks to the media at the GOP election headquarters, at the Utah Association of Realtors office in Sandy, on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020.

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