Former U.S. Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, joined four other Democratic lawmakers who were defeated in 2020 in joining and advising a group aimed at “shielding moderates most at risk” of losing their seats.

The Shield PAC, a project launched by Third Way, a center-left think tank in Washington, D.C., is a political action committee launched “to define and shield the most at-risk House moderates from Republican efforts to tie them to socialism and other ideas that are toxic in their districts.”

McAdams, widely recognized as a moderate Democrat, narrowly lost his bid for reelection in 2020 to Republican Rep. Burgess Owens, who has spoken in extreme terms about Democrats in federal office, including calling leaders of the party “narcissists and sociopaths.”

In an op-ed published by USA Today on Monday, McAdams and the other former members of Congress, as well as two unsuccessful House candidates, argued that the “GOP does not plan to try to retake the House in 2022 on the strength of its ideas. Rather, Republicans intend to lie about Democrats.”

“This is not a secret: They’ve issued memos, been quoted in news media and posted their strategy on social media,” the group wrote. “And it is familiar to us because it is a reprise of the war plan Republicans used against us in 2020: Connect swimming-district Democrats, most of whom are moderates, to ideologies, policies, and slogans that they reject.”

The op-ed referenced the Owens-McAdams race specifically, noting that “socialism isn’t so popular in Utah … which made potent the charge that Ben supports an ‘extreme socialist agenda.’”

The group of Democrats argued that “the targeted Democrats are moderates in purple swing districts like ours,” many of whom were elected in 2018, who “must convince swing voters, who don’t yet know them well, that they represent their districts’ values.”

“The GOP already has spun up its attack machine to lie about those members, as they did about us,” wrote the group. “Unless their voters learn more about them, those lies could take hold.”

The messaging in the op-ed is similar to that of McAdams on the campaign trail, where he embraced his voting record and called his opponent’s characterization of him “misleading.”

“My record speaks for itself,” McAdams told the Daily Herald in October 2020. “I’m Utah’s most independent member of Congress and my track record is (being) someone who works across party lines to get things done for Utah.”

The op-ed also referenced the Jan. 6 House vote to reject President Joe Biden’s wins in Arizona and Pennsylvania, which they say “reminds us that some will sacrifice anything — truth, honor and even the most sacred tenets of our democracy — to grasp at power.”

Owens and Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, both voted to reject Biden’s win in Pennsylvania.

The other Democrats who penned the op-ed with McAdams were: former Oklahoma Rep. Kendra Horn, former New Mexico Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, former New York Rep. Anthony Brindisi, former South Carolina Rep. Joe Cunningham, former candidate Jackie Gordon of New York and former candidate Christina Hale of Indiana.

Connor Richards covers government, the environment and south Utah County for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at crichards@heraldextra.com and 801-344-2599.

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