SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Burgess Owens, the GOP candidate for Utah’s 4th Congressional District, is slated to speak during the Republican National Convention — appearing on the same night as Vice President Mike Pence, his wife Karen Pence and President Donald Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump. He is the only Utahn scheduled to give a speech at the four-day long convention.
The former NFL football player called the opportunity “a dream come true.” During his aired speech, he said he plans to talk about the hope he sustained while growing up Black in the segregated South.
“My message — and you can see it in this convention — is I represent a party that is the party of hope,” Owens told the Deseret News. “Part of that hope is recognizing how far we’ve come as, ‘We the people.’ We continually get better, every single generation. I continually think about my history.”
The convention begins Monday and will continue each night until President Trump officially accepts the party’s nomination Thursday. However, Trump is expected to make an appearance each night during the televised event.
Owens is vying to unseat Rep. Ben McAdams, Utah’s only Democrat in Congress. His speaking role comes nearly two weeks after the hotly-contested race was deemed a toss-up from The Cook Political Report — shifting away from original predictions which put McAdams on top.
Owens was nominated after the GOP primaries June 30, beating out three other Republicans looking to regain the district. Shortly after the race was called, President Trump endorsed Owens on Twitter.
“Congratulations, @BurgessOwens, on your impressive primary victory!” the president tweeted. “A Super Bowl Champion, Burgess knows how to WIN. Strong on Life, Military, Vets and the #2A, he will always fight for Utah. Burgess has my Complete and Total Endorsement! #UT04”
Congratulations, @BurgessOwens, on your impressive primary victory! A Super Bowl Champion, Burgess knows how to WIN. Strong on Life, Military, Vets and the #2A, he will always fight for Utah. Burgess has my Complete and Total Endorsement! #UT04 https://t.co/UppUx24FXx
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 3, 2020
Owens has long been an advocate for Trump, which has been met with backlash among Democrats and liberal groups — who call the congressional hopeful a far-right candidate.
This comes after reports linking Owens to the online conspiracy group QAnon, following an appearance on an online program to promote his campaign. However, Owens did not talk about QAnon during the interview.
Additionally, the Republican candidate has publicly praised other candidates linked to the online conspiracy group, such as Lauren Boebert who said she hopes QAnon “is real.”
Owens has also been linked to the online fraud scam “Build the Wall” which was responsible for the indictment of Steve Bannon, a longtime friend of President Trump. The scam claimed to raise money to build a wall along the southern U.S. border — but it was later found organizers used portions of the money for private expenses.
Critics pointed to Owens’ appearance on an online “Wall-a-Thon” during the summer of 2019 to help raise funds for the project, according to a report from Media Matters.
However, Owens is somewhat popular among the GOP as the challenger to Rep. McAdams. Several prominent figures — like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Donald Trump Jr., and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) — have all helped raise funds for Owens’ campaign.
Owens is scheduled to speak within a five-minute time frame, appearing on the third night of the convention.
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