In 1992, little-known Democrat Patty Murray was elected to the U.S. Senate as the “mom in tennis shoes.” Now a Pasco native is running against her as a Republican, using the same outsider campaign.
Tiffany Smiley, a former triage nurse and mother of three, garnered national attention surrounding her advocacy for veterans and active- service military members. Her involvement began when her husband, Scotty, was permanently blinded during his deployment in 2005.
The aftermath was full of bureaucratic voices suggesting Scotty retire from the military because of his injuries, Smiley said, which led to her assembling a coalition to fight for change within the Department of Veterans Affairs. Scotty soon became the first blind active-duty officer to serve in the Army, and Smiley’s push for reform continued.
“If someone would’ve told me that someday my life would lead into politics, I would’ve laughed and said you’re crazy,” she said in an interview with The Columbian. “I think when something is wrong, we can fix it.”
Smiley’s campaign, which was announced mid-April, is focused on veterans’ issues and finding “common sense solutions” for Washington residents. At its root, this move requires minimizing the country’s taxing and spending, becoming energy independent, and investing in education and jobs, she said.
She is critical of President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better agenda and response to inflation. She emphasizes the need for stronger border security.
Conversely, Democrats question Smiley’s views regarding the 2020 presidential election.
Alex Bond, Washington State Democrats communications director, pointed to Smiley’s website where she questioned the integrity of the election. Audits proved that Biden won the election fairly, he said, and saying otherwise is harmful to include in her campaign.
In a statement to The Columbian, Smiley’s campaign team wrote that Smiley has “repeatedly said that Joe Biden is the president” and added that voting should be easy, but cheating should be hard.
“It seems like she’s trying to have it both ways when it comes to the integrity of our election,” Bond said. “That’s not responsible communication.”
“It’s a really sad state of affairs when a Republican candidate running for statewide office can’t stand up for democracy,” wrote state Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver.
Smiley has earned endorsements from the Washington State Republican Party and various Republican figures, such as U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Spokane, Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa. Her campaign reportedly received $925,000 of fundraising during the fourth quarter of 2021 — contributing to a $2.6 million total. Murray reports nearly $10 million in total campaign finances.
The GOP hasn’t won a U.S. Senate race in Washington since 1994. Smiley said it’s time for the incumbent to retire after serving five terms.
“I was 11 years old when (Murray) ran in the state,” Smiley said. “Now it’s almost as if she’s forgotten about us.”
Murray’s campaign is a continuance of her work in Washington, D.C., as it is focused on continuing to create jobs, expand health care and lower costs for child care. She attributed local economic successes to the American Rescue Plan, which provided emergency funds to individuals and businesses throughout the country, and said the momentum must persist.
“Now we’ve got to keep our foot on the gas — I’m focused on ensuring a strong economic recovery for working people in Southwest Washington, beating this pandemic and giving people back some certainty and stability,” she wrote in a statement to The Columbian.
This article was originally published on February 12, 2022 in The Columbian.