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Utah Democrat defending his seat in close House race

Burgess Owens, Republican candidate in Utah's 4th Congressional District, poses for a photograph during a campaign stop Friday, Oct. 30, 2020, in Spring City, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

By LINDSAY WHITEHURST Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The competitive race for a suburban Salt Lake City swing congressional district wraps up Tuesday as Democrats look to see if they can hold a seat flipped in deep-red Utah in 2018.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Ben McAdams has been running at a dead heat against Republican Burgess Owens, a former football player and frequent Fox News guest.

It could take several days to declare a winner since Utah’s system of primarily by-mail balloting generally takes longer to count due to additional verification steps.

Nearly $19 million has been poured into the race in the district where registered Republicans outnumber Democrats three to one.

McAdams is a moderate who was part of the so-called blue wave that won control of the U.S. House for the Democrats. He has focused on kitchen-table issues and occasionally bucked party leadership, though he did vote to impeach the president.

Owens has come under scrutiny for media appearances related to QAnon, a baseless conspiracy theory that has increasingly crept into mainstream politics. His spokesman has said Owens doesn’t believe in the theory.

Owens handily won a crowded Republican primary by running to the right of his opponents. He grew up in the Deep South, and later became an NFL player on the 1980 Super Bowl-winning Oakland Raiders before converting to the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The district was held until 2018 by Mia Love, another Black conservative who was the first Black Republican woman elected to the House. She was critical of Trump at times, including when he used an expletive to refer to her parents’ home country of Haiti.

Owens has backed the president and Donald Trump Jr. campaigned for him. Owens has disagreed with athletes kneeling during the national anthem in support of Black Lives Matter during appearances on Fox News.

McAdams, meanwhile, was a well-known mayor of Democratic-leaning Salt Lake County before he ran for Congress. He defeated Love by less than 700 votes, and the race this year was one of the more closely watched in the country.

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Find AP’s full election coverage at APNews.com/Election2020.