Utah debates: How Utah’s 4th Congressional District opponents compare on the issues

Oct 12, 2022, 6:00 AM | Updated: 6:03 pm
Candidates for Utah's Fourth Congressional District. Darlene McDonald (left), Rep. Burgess Owens (c...
Candidates for Utah's Fourth Congressional District. Darlene McDonald (left), Rep. Burgess Owens (center), January Walker (right). (Photos, left to right: Utah Democrats, U.S. House of Representatives, JanuaryforUtah.com)
(Photos, left to right: Utah Democrats, U.S. House of Representatives, JanuaryforUtah.com)

SALT LAKE CITY — On Oct. 12, Democrat Darlene McDonald, Republican Rep. Burgess Owens, and January Walker (United Utah Party) are scheduled to debate at 6 p.m. at the University of Utah. Each is running to represent Utah’s 4th Congressional District. However, Owens has announced he will not attend the debate.



The debate moderator will be Salt Lake Tribune Executive Editor Lauren Gustus.

Owens was the 13th pick in the first round of the 1973 NFL draft. He later played seven seasons as a safety for the New York Jets, and three seasons with the Oakland Raiders. Owens was on the Raider’s Super Bowl-winning team in 1980. 

Darlene McDonald was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, and moved with her family to Utah in 2002. She met her husband Michael in Utah. McDonald holds a bachelor of science degree from Western Governors University. She also studied economics at Westminster College in Salt Lake City. She served as Outreach Director for the Utah Women’s Democratic Club — the oldest women’s Democratic club in the country. And McDonald also served on the board of Alliance for a Better Utah.

Our previous debate coverage: 

January Walker is a moderate millennial running as the United Utah Party’s political candidate. She’s a leader in cybersecurity and technology, having obtained her bachelor’s degree in business, with minors in economics and finance.

Where do these three candidates for Utah’s 4th Congressional District stand on the issues?


The top issue for Democrats in 2022 is abortion (35%) and for Republicans, the top issue this year is inflation (40%), as reported by NPR on Sept. 8.

Overall, 30% of survey respondents identified inflation as their top issue. That’s down seven points from the last time the question was asked in July. That was followed by abortion at 22%, up four points since July, according to NPR.

Owens co-sponsored H.R. 541, the Defund Planned Parenthood Act of 2021.

  • “I am proud to be a staunch pro-life advocate in Congress. I will always stand up to protect our most vulnerable,” he said.

  • Walker opposes “government-mandated childbirth or laws that limit women’s access to birth control. Especially in cases of rape, incest and at the risk of health and safety of the woman.”
  • She supports laws that support preventative healthcare for both men and women and that protect women from violence.

  • “Abortions should be safe, legal, and rare. They are performed as a medical necessity to save a woman’s life. Or, as a result of an unwanted pregnancy,” McDonald said. “This decision to have an abortion is a decision that should reside with a woman and her doctor. It is not the role of government to be involved with a woman’s reproductive decisions prior to fetal viability. Anything beyond that is government overreach.”


During the 12 months ending June 2022, the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers increased 9.1%.  It was the largest 12-month increase since November 1981, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Owens voted against H.R 5376 or the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022.

  • “Over the past 18 months, President Biden’s economic agenda has steered our country into a recession,” he said, “and the Democrats are trying to spend their way out. Sen. Schumer calls the Inflation Reduction Act a ‘game changer,’ but the experts and economists call it a $740 billion scam that fails to reduce inflation, slash prices or crack down on wealthy tax cheats.”

  • Walker said she “will aggressively combat inflation by implementing technology to eliminate the national debt and solve operational breakdowns in the USA supply chain. She says this will ease the pain on Utahns’ wallets, resulting in lower gas prices and affordable groceries.
  • According to Walker’s campaign website, there are three drivers of growth in spending which lead to an increase in the national debt.

                 1. Rising healthcare costs per capita.
                 2. Our aging population.
                 3. The cost of servicing our national debt [interest cost].”

McDonald said the pandemic shocked the global economy and Putin’s war on Ukraine upset the worldwide energy market.

  • “We are also realizing that what we are identifying as “inflation” is possibly turning out to be corporations simply maximizing their prices out of an abundance of caution for their own survival, which doesn’t appear to be threatened at all … I am disheartened that Congress has abdicated their ability to stop any form of ‘price gouging’ during times of struggle for the American people, including the residents of Utah, and unfortunately it does seem to be a bipartisan lack of effort.”

Immigration and the candidates for Utah’s 4th Congressional District

The U.S. foreign-born population reached a record 44.8 million in 2018. Immigrants today account for 13.7% of the U.S. population, nearly triple the share (4.8%) in 1970, according to the Pew Research Center.

Most immigrants (77%) are in the country legally, while almost a quarter are unauthorized, according to new Pew Research Center estimates based on census data adjusted for undercount.

Owens’ stand on immigration:

  • “There is a devastating humanitarian, national security and public health crisis at our Southern border. It is threatening the safety and security of every American. As your representative, I am committed to securing our country’s borders.”

Owens references four immigration-related bills he has co-sponsored in the House.

Walker said the bureaucracy of the U.S. immigration system is burdening taxpayers with unnecessary expenses.

  • For example, “by upgrading our identity technology to allow people to easily keep their data with them we can drastically reduce the stresses associated with lost or destroyed paperwork,” she said. “This saves the 85,000 refugees that the United States accepts each year approximately $46.8M [million].”

Upgrading the technology of Green Cards will also save U.S. taxpayers, she said.

(A Green Card [officially known as a Permanent Resident Card allows] you to live and work permanently in the United States.)

  • “By issuing Green Cards to a mobile app, we can reduce mail service costs from approximately $8,217,000 to $2,200 year over year,” Walker said.

  • “We need to first identify who is here in an undocumented status living within the borders of the United States,” McDonald said.
  • She added the immigration system needs to be fixed to allow talented workers worldwide to enter the country but who have no desire to stay in the U.S. permanently.
  • “We need to acknowledge that and adjust, but also make becoming a US citizen a bit harder than stepping over an invisible line and praying.”

Candidates for Utah’s 4th Congressional District on the Jan. 6 insurrection

On May 2021, Owens wrote:

  • “What happened on January 6th was reprehensible, and those responsible for the violent attack on our Capitol must be held accountable and fully prosecuted. Unfortunately, Americans will not find a bipartisan resolution in Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi’s inherently partisan commission. I support investigations from the Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and others as they yield results and improve security vulnerabilities. I would also support a fair and balanced congressional commission investigation into January 6th that gives both parties equal power to hire staff and widen the scope to include a broad wave of politically fueled violence.”

Owens voted against H.R. 8873, the President Election Reform Act.

  • “The Presidential Election Reform Act, written behind closed doors with zero opportunity for collaboration, goes well beyond any bipartisan consensus to protect the integrity of the Electoral College, tramples the constitutional duty of states to oversee elections and continues the partisan charge to centralize power in Washington.”

  • “It was disturbing & horrific to watch a Capitol police officer dragged by his legs down a flight of stairs and struck repeatedly with a pole carrying an American flag,” Walker said. “The narrative around election fraud was exactly that, a narrative in bad faith to manipulate populations into uprising against the opposing party to strike an opportunity at a one-party control rule. Unfortunately it worked.”

  • “We need to fix the fundamental divisions that got us here,” McDonald said. “If we have become too fixated on eyeing everyone with suspicion about alleged or actual transgressions in our past, we cannot see what is in front of us. If the bleeding doesn’t stop, we are collectively going to all die as a nation anyway. That is unacceptable.”

Energy and the candidates for Utah’s 4th Congressional District

  •  “Bad policies and unnecessary reliance on other countries for resources are fueling our domestic energy crisis. We need to protect our national security and unleash U.S. energy independence. As your representative,” Owens said, “I will always fight for pro-growth policies that boost our supply chains, energy independence, national security and economic growth.”

Owens backed a bipartisan resolution supporting expanding the use of domestic nuclear energy and technology to re-establish energy independence.

  • “Not only is nuclear power a reliable and sustainable form of clean energy, but it is also critical to U.S. national security and benefits local services like the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems,”  he said in a statement.

The United States needs to invest in energy sources that reduce emissions of climate-warming greenhouse gases, Walker said.

  • “The method to implementation requires us to keep at minimum the base layer of current solutions in play until we have the infrastructure in place for mass adoption.”

  • “We are a net producer of oil and gas but remain dependent on foreign fuel. Mostly because of long-standing contractual obligations. The United States has some of the best areas in the world geographically to produce both wind, and solar power, yet they remain unutilized,” McDonald said.

Candidates for Utah’s 4th Congressional District on the Environment

According to On the Issues, Owens has no stance on record regarding the environment. Read more about Owens at his campaign website.

“We cannot continue to hasten the destruction of our environments, our water and air, or hastening the destruction of our planet mining limited fossil fuels while continuing to pay immediate and long-term repercussions,” McDonald said. “Saving the environment, and still maintaining our way of life are not mutually exclusive. … We do not wish to see Utah and the Wasatch Front become the first US casualty to a shifting climate, which is already beginning to affect our cheap coal power generation from the Colorado and Green River waters.”

“In Utah & other Western states, where we have been in a water crisis for years, we should tackle water solutions first. This includes implementing technology and giving states the tools to transparently cross-collaborate,” Walker said.

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Utah debates: How Utah’s 4th Congressional District opponents compare on the issues