ELECTION 2020

Utah Candidate Seeking McAdams’ Seat Set For RNC Speech

Aug 26, 2020, 9:50 AM | Updated: 9:53 am
Utah Rep. Burgess Owens. (Steve Griffin, Deseret News)...
Utah Rep. Burgess Owens. (Steve Griffin, Deseret News)
(Steve Griffin, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – A Black conservative running for Congress in Utah is set to speak at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday. Burgess Owens is in a race that could test GOP’s ability to recapture the suburban districts that powered 2018’s blue wave and gave Democrats control of the House.

Owens is a former NFL player and Fox News commentator and supporter of President Donald Trump. He handily won the Republican primary by running to the right of his opponents. The political newcomer trying to reclaim the suburban Salt Lake City district once held by Mia Love, another Black conservative who was the first Black Republican woman elected to the House.

She lost in a tight race in 2018 to a moderate Democrat, Ben McAdams.

The convention has featured other Republicans of color as Trump seeks to expand his voting base, including Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, the daughter of Indian immigrants.

Owens grew up in segregated Tallahassee, Florida, earned a football scholarship to the University of Miami and later helped the Oakland Raiders win the 1980 Super Bowl. He converted to the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints near the end of his football career.

He has mentioned his athletic career during appearances on Fox News, where he disagreed with athletes kneeling during the National Anthem in support of Black Lives Matter. During a June primary debate, Owens answered a question about bipartisanship in part by saying he refused to negotiate with “people who hate our country” and decried “Marxists and socialists.”

In the general election, he’ll be facing McAdams, a former mayor who was one of several Democrats who flipped Congressional seats in red-leaning districts in 2018 by focusing on kitchen-table issues like health care and by breaking with party leaders at times.

This year, both candidates face new terrain amid the coronavirus pandemic and protests over police brutality continue around the country, including the Salt Lake City suburbs.

Owens has backed the president and received a congratulatory tweet when he won the primary and had Donald Trump Jr. campaign for him.

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Utah Candidate Seeking McAdams’ Seat Set For RNC Speech