Utah’s Ben McAdams joins group promising to combat Republican ‘lies’

Shield PAC, supported by former House Democrats, will seek to protect moderates in 2022.

A group of Democrats who lost House races last November, including Utah’s Ben McAdams, plans to raise piles of cash to defend moderates from Republican attacks.

The newly created Shield PAC intends to launch TV ads early in the 2022 races, focusing its efforts on tough swing districts and countering GOP accusations that Democratic candidates are socialists.

These Democrats announced the effort in a USA Today opinion column Monday, framing their mission as nothing short of protecting the nation.

“Our democracy hangs by a thread,” the column reads, noting Democrats hold the House by just eight votes. “Our plan is to counter the torrent of lies that helped cost us our elections in 2020.”

McAdams, a one-term incumbent, lost his House seat to Rep. Burgess Owens by 3,765 votes, or 1 percentage point. Owens and conservative super PACs sought to label McAdams as an out-of-touch liberal in Utah’s 4th Congressional District.

“I thought how unfortunate it was that after working so hard as a centrist to bring people together and to build bridges,” McAdams said, “to see a campaign talking about me as supporting a left-wing socialist agenda, which couldn’t be anything further from the truth.”

He is one of five House Democrats and two candidates who will advise Shield PAC, which was launched by the left-leaning think tank Third Way.

McAdams said the seven Democrats will help raise money, decide what races to focus on and offer advice on what the ads should say.

It’s possible these advisers will also be candidates in 2022, benefiting directly from the political action committee they are helping to build. While he says it is too early to decide, McAdams hasn’t ruled out running against Owens again.

“I haven’t made any decisions yes or no on whether I would run again,” he told The Salt Lake Tribune. “But I’ve talked with many of the other people who are joining with me in this effort, and I think many of them are open to the idea of running again. I’m not aware that any of them may have made a decision either way at this point.”

McAdams said he faced negative attack ads for months before his campaign paid for positive TV spots. In all, $17.4 million was spent on advertising in the tough 4th District race.

“What I worry happened in the past is the cake is baked by the time positive candidate messaging goes up,” McAdams said. “And I think we can change that by getting out with positive, truthful messaging earlier in the election cycle.”

The group’s opinion column argues Republicans have lied about moderates like them and will continue to in an attempt to gain control of the House. That includes calling them socialists, when they are capitalists; saying they supported bans on drilling, when they didn’t; and arguing they would “defund the police,” when they wouldn’t.

“To be sure, there are Democratic members who hold these views,” the column reads. “They are as sincere in their beliefs as we are in ours, and while we largely agree on broad Democratic goals, we have principled disagreements on some big policies.”

The column also hits Republicans, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, for voting on Jan. 6, after a mob ransacked the Capitol, to reject the presidential electors from Arizona and Pennsylvania. Utah Reps. Owens and Chris Stewart voted to reject the Pennsylvania electors.

(Rick Egan | Tribune file photo) Rep. Burgess Owens on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020.

Owens did not respond to a request for comment. Neither did the National Republican Congressional Committee, which has accused McAdams of supporting a socialist agenda.

After taking office, Owens has continued to use extreme language to label his political opponents, most recently asserting that President Joe Biden is leading a “dictatorship.”

But he also met with the Democrats in the Utah House and apologized for calling liberals socialists.

“My apologies go to liberals,” Owens said, “because I didn’t quite see the difference between liberalism and Marxism and socialism.”

Shield PAC advisers include McAdams and former Reps. Anthony Brindisi of New York, Joe Cunningham of South Carolina, Kendra Horn of Oklahoma and Xochitl Torres Small of New Mexico, along with former Democratic candidates Jackie Gordon of New York and Christina Hale of Indiana.

They ended their column by writing, “Republicans will lie about these members because it worked against us and because they have nothing else to run on. Four years of Donald Trump hollowed out their party. They have abandoned their long-held principles, they have no new ideas and they have no record of success. With Shield PAC, we seek to learn from the damage done to us by ensuring this cynical strategy doesn’t take a toll again in 2022.”