Editor’s note: When final votes were counted nearly two weeks after the election, Republican Burgess Owens won the election.
Rep. Ben McAdams lost his tenuous lead over Republican contender Burgess Owens in the race for Utah’s 4th Congressional District on Saturday after nearly 15,000 ballots were added from Salt Lake County.
Owens, a former NFL player and frequent Fox News commentator, now is up by 688 votes over McAdams, a first-term Democrat and the former mayor of Salt Lake County. It could be weeks before a clear winner emerges in the close contest.
“We’re feeling pretty optimistic and excited to see the final tally,” said Jesse Ranney, Owens' campaign spokesman, in a statement Saturday. “We’re confident when all the votes are in Burgess will be representing the 4th District in Washington.”
McAdams' campaign manager, Andrew Roberts, acknowledged that the numbers are continuing to go “back and forth,” but said the team remains “confident that Ben will be reelected.”
“We are grateful to Utah’s election clerks for their dedicated effort on a weekend to update the results for Utah voters and candidates,” he added.
The race has been close since election night and at one point shrunk to just 18 votes separating the two candidates. But Owens has trailed most recently, as McAdams had a 405-vote lead Friday.
The 2018 race between McAdams and Republican incumbent Rep. Mia Love was similarly hard fought: It lasted until the final canvass that takes place two weeks after ballots are cast. McAdams 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 has performed better in the latter three counties, while McAdams has higher percentage of the votes in Salt Lake County, which has more Democrats and more moderate voters.
In Utah County, Owens has captured 67.17% of the vote, while McAdams has brought in 26.71%. McAdams has averaged around 54% of the vote in Salt Lake County, while Owens has 40.97% as of Friday afternoon. After Saturday’s votes were added, McAdams had 53.4% of the vote to Owens' 41.52% there.
There could be up to 95,000 ballots remaining to be counted in Salt Lake County, according to County Clerk Sherrie Swensen — though it’s not clear how many of those were cast in the race between Owens and McAdams. There are a few hundred 4th District ballots left outstanding in Utah County, which did not drop new results on Saturday.