Former Utah talk radio host hopes to bring compromise back to Congress
Jay “JayMac” McFarland has spent decades debating political matters, fielding questions from fired-up individuals and speaking his mind to politicians. Now, after 20 years of talk radio work revolving around politicians, McFarland wants to be one.
“It was my dream job,” McFarland said about talk radio. “It was something that I felt like I would be doing for the rest of my life. It gave me an opportunity to participate in the public debate. I got to grill the politicians and, you know, play journalist in some regards.”
McFarland, a former KSL NewsRadio pundit and one of four remaining Republicans in the race to represent Utah’s 4th Congressional District, added that he never called or thought of himself as a journalist.
“I always felt like I was just the guy down the street who had a chance to go on the microphone and tell people what he thought of the issues,” the GOP 4th District candidate said in an interview on Wednesday.
McFarland’s career in talk radio began after he financed his own radio show and eventually caught the attention of one of the main talk radio stations in Las Vegas. He then worked his way up to working full-time at a station in Dallas, Texas, after which KSL NewsRadio recruited him nine years ago to come to Utah, where he hosted the “JayMac News Show” until July.
“Our politicians in Congress are unable to communicate with each other, and we’re choosing leaders who are so far to the right and so far to the left that they literally have no interest in talking to the other side.”
– Jay McFarland
But after two decades of talking politics and debating social matters, McFarland said he noticed a shift in how Republicans and Democrats interact with one another. He cited this as the reason he decided to run for Congress.
“I felt over the last couple of years that our politics have started to change to such a degree that our government is shutting down,” said McFarland. “Our politicians in Congress are unable to communicate with each other, and we’re choosing leaders who are so far to the right and so far to the left that they literally have no interest in talking to the other side. They think the other side is evil, and why would you negotiate with evil?”
Out of the four remaining GOP candidates in the race — who include Utah Rep. Kim Coleman, R-West Jordan, former NFL player Burgess Owens and nonprofit CEO Trent Christensen — McFarland said he sees himself as the least partisan and the most likely to compromise with Democrats in Congress.
“I think that, if we keep sending people to Washington who are so far to the right or so far to the left, what we’re guaranteeing is that nothing will get done,” he said. “And I believe that the other opponents running in this primary are so far to the right that they’re going to go to Washington, and what we’re going to end up with is more of the same. More gridlock, more name-calling and more lack of civility.”
Still, McFarland said he sees himself as a strong conservative who will defend the values of 4th District residents.
“I get called a moderate conservative, but really I’m as conservative as they come,” McFarland said. “But what makes me moderate in their eyes is that I actually will listen to the other side. I actually know their arguments. I actually know what they need to compromise. So that allows me to bring solutions and ideas to the table that can be accepted, because I listen.”
When asked how closely he aligns with President Donald Trump, McFarland said “there are many things” Trump has done that he supports, including the president’s tax reform and deregulation efforts, United States Supreme Court nominations and attempt at “finally taking on China” on trade.
“But I do have a problem with President Trump when it comes to how he treats other people,” McFarland admitted. “When my principles allow me to support him, I’m 100% there. But when he does things that I can’t support, you will find that I will point it out and I will be critical of him, and I will ask him not to do those things.”
McFarland criticized the incumbent congressman he is running to replace, U.S. Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, for voting to impeach Trump for allegedly pressuring Ukraine’s government to investigate the business dealings of former vice president and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son and obstructing Congress from probing the investigation.
“I think Ben McAdams is a nice guy,” said McFarland. “I just think he’s representing the wrong district. If you look at District 4, it is a majority-conservative district.”
During the Utah Republican Party’s April convention, McFarland was eliminated in the 5th round of ranked-choice voting with 14.5% of delegate votes, while Coleman and Owens advanced after six rounds with 54.5% and 45.5% of votes, respectively. McFarland and Christensen both qualified for the June 30 primary by collecting signatures.
The winner of the Republican primary will compete against McAdams, Libertarian Party candidate John Molnar and United Utah Party candidate Jonia Broderick in November’s general election.