A Republican political newcomer is picking up steam in the Washington state Senate race by going after Democratic Sen. Patty Murray for being outdated and out of touch.
Tiffany Smiley knocked Mrs. Murray, 71, for being a “career politician” who has stayed in the Senate too long.
Ms. Smiley, 40, says she is offering voters a fresh voice and new ideas in the nation’s capital.
“I was 11 years old when she was first elected. Thirty years ago, she had a real grassroots movement, but it’s become apparent that she’s forgotten about Washington state,” Mrs. Smiley told The Washington Times.
Polls indicate that Mrs. Smiley has been able to move the needle in her race as a viable GOP contender in the liberal stronghold of Washington state.
Mrs. Murray’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
Mrs. Murray, who’s held the seat for 30 years and serves as the assistant Democratic leader in the Senate, is a formidable opponent by any measure.
Still, a recent poll shows Mrs. Smiley gaining ground against the longtime incumbent. While Mrs. Murray remained in the lead with 50% of the vote, Mrs. Smiley was up to 41% in the February poll that Public
Policy Polling conducted for Northwest Progressive Institute.
Mrs. Smiley improved her position for the 37% of the vote she garnered in the same poll in both May and November of 2021.
The February poll surveyed 700 likely 2022 Washington state voters between Feb. 17-18. It had an error margin of +/-3.7%.
The University of Virginia’s nonpartisan Crystal Ball, led by election forecaster Larry Sabato, has moved the Washington Senate race from being “safe Democratic” to “likely Democratic.”
Mrs. Smiley must survive a crowded nonpartisan primary on Aug. 2 to get to a general election against Mrs. Murray.
The contenders include a handful of Democrats, an independent and one other Republican. There’s software developer Bryan Solstin, a Democrat seeking to make Bitcoin legal tender, and Nicolaus Sleister, a Democrat running on enhancing racial and social equity.
Mrs. Murray, who was first elected in 1992, is the sixth most senior member of the Senate. She also chairs the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.
In announcing her reelection bid in May, Mrs. Murray highlighted her role in a return to normalcy following the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’ve fought every day to get relief into the hands of people who need it — getting vaccines into arms, helping schools reopen safely, supporting our small businesses, and getting relief directly to our families,” Mrs. Murray said. “I’m still in the fight for you and your family, and all of Washington state, and together we can keep making a difference and make progress.”
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee said the political trends of Washington state bode well for its party in a tight election year.
“Washington hasn’t sent a Republican to the U.S. Senate since 1994 and handing Mitch McConnell the Senate majority is not a popular proposal in a state President Biden won by 20 points,” said Patrick Burgwinkle, DSCC spokesman.
Travis Ridout, a political science professor at Washington State University, said both parties are likely to take advantage of Mrs. Smiley being a newcomer and try to define her for voters.
“At this point, I would guess a very small percentage of the people in the state would recognize her name,” Mr. Ridout said. “There’s a lot of opportunities for Republicans to define her in a positive way, and for Democrats to spend millions of dollars to fight to define her in a very negative way if they feel they need to.”
Currently, no Republicans hold statewide elected office in Washington state. The state hasn’t had a GOP governor since 1980 or a GOP senator since 2000.
So far, Mrs. Smiley has received national GOP endorsements and filled her war chest with over $2.5 million. She’s also running on her life story that she believes will connect with voters across the political spectrum.
Mrs. Smiley quit her job as a nurse at the age of 23 when her husband, Army Capt. Scotty Smiley, was wounded by a suicide bomber while deployed in Iraq.
Mrs. Smiley became a full-time caregiver and advocate for her husband, who was left permanently blinded by shrapnel. Capt. Smiley, a Ranger and combat-diver qualified infantryman, went on to become the first blind active-duty Army officer.
Mrs. Smiley later met with President Trump in 2017 as part of her advocacy for improving the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Mrs. Smiley cites dealing with military bureaucracy and limited VA options as a life-changing experience that brought her into public advocacy.
“That was the first time I experienced bad policy,” she said. “The Army was quick to retire him and get him into the VA system. Being a nurse and taking a holistic approach, I knew that was not the pathway to
ensure freedom or opportunity for him.”
Beyond veteran services, Mrs. Smiley is a mother of three boys and is motivated by improving education standards and mitigating the rising crime that’s plagued her state.
Seattle reported a 10% increase in crime from 2020 to 2021. Its violent crime rate also rose 20%, hitting a 14-year-high, according to a year-end report by the city.
The candidate said she also wants to help promote policies that restore the American Dream and enhance economic opportunities that have become eroded.
“We’ll do anything for this country, to fight for it, and to ensure that the American Dream is alive and well for our children for generations to come,” Mrs. Smiley said. “That’s truly why I’m in this fight.”
This article was originally published by The Washington Times on March 29, 2022.