Republican challenger calls Rep. Owens a ‘coward’ for avoiding debates

UPDATED: MAY 31, 2022 AT 5:56 PM

DRAPER, Utah – The Republican challenger in Utah’s 4th Congressional District calls incumbent Rep. Burgess Owens a “coward” for not participating in upcoming debates.

Challenger Jake Hunsaker held a press conference outside Owens’s congressional office in Draper, Utah Tuesday afternoon. He spoke on Owens’s lack of participation and the Utah Republican Party for discouraging debates not sanctioned by the party.

The Utah Debate Commission scheduled a debate between Hunsaker and Owens for Wednesday, which Hunsaker is only attending.

“This, unfortunately, comes as no surprise to Congressional District Four voters like me,” Hunsaker told KSL-TV. “Owens has been absent from Utah since the day he took office. He’s afraid of tough questions. Nervous, he’ll incriminate himself.”

Hunsaker continued at the press conference claiming that Owens is using name recognition as his only tool to win the election.

“This is just another sign of my opponent views the entire electoral process as a threat to his game of toxic electoral politics rather than an essential piece of the American democracy,” Hunsaker said.

He also went after GOP leaders for not pushing candidates to debate in non-GOP sponsored debates.

“GOP leaders, don’t be a safe haven for absenteeism and cowardice,” Hunsaker said.

Earlier in May, GOP Chairman Carson Jorgensen asked candidates not to participate in Utah Debate Commission debates.


The Facebook post from the Utah Republican Party on May 10th asking candidates to only debate in GOP sponsored events.

He claims that Owens has rejected four possible debates, but Owens’s campaign refutes these accusations.

“It’s unfortunate that our opponent has chosen to launch his political career by engaging in mudslinging and lies. The people of Utah deserve better,” Jesse Ranney, Owens campaign spokesman, told Deseret News. “These are desperate lies being spread by our political opponent.”

Ranney said they are looking for possible debate dates in June.

Chairman Jorgensen also spoke to Deseret News and said they tried to organize a debate between the two candidates, but Owens’s campaign didn’t give them a reason for not participating in their debate.

Jorgenson also calls Hunsaker’s strategy of attacking the Republican Party, “bold.”

“Hunsaker can come at the party all he wants, but we have gone above and out of our way to make sure that debates happen, and it’s probably not a good thing to start attacking the party right now,” he said.

Deseret News asked Jorgenson about Ranney’s June debate plan, but he hasn’t heard those plans.

Currently, the 4th Congressional District Republican race is the only Utah federal race without both candidates debating.

In the case of the 2nd Congressional District, incumbent Rep. Chris Stewart and challenger Erin Rider will not participate with Utah Debate Commission but will attend the Utah GOP-sponsored debate on Tuesday night on KRNS radio.

While Sen. Mike Lee will skip the commission debate leaving it to the two challengers, Becky Edwards and Ally Isom, to debate on Thursday, Lee will join them in the unannounced GOP’s sponsor debate.