SEATTLE — U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Republican challenger Tiffany Smiley argued over abortion, crime and inflation on Sunday in their only scheduled debate before the Nov. 8 election.
Smiley made numerous references to Murray’s 30 years in the Senate during the hour-long debate televised from Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, saying it was time for a change.
“She is the image of big government,” Smiley, who is making her first run for public office, said. “You are not the mom in tennis shoes anymore.”
Murray, who is seeking a sixth term, said in this election: “Women’s rights are on the ballot. Our democracy is on the ballot and our economy is on the ballot.”
Murray has led the polling in the race, including a poll last week that showed she had an 8-point lead over Smiley, but that the race had also narrowed in recent weeks.
The two candidates agreed that the federal immigration system was not working. Smiley said dangerous drugs were flowing across the border, while Murray said the system needs to be fixed for humanitarian reasons and to help businesses find employees.
Regarding inflation, Murray said she is focused on lowering costs for families and supported President Biden’s inflation reduction act.
“That sounds like a Washington, D.C., answer to me,” Smiley said. She said the Biden administration is also seeking to hire 87,000 employees for the Internal Revenue Service who will be “coming after our businesses.”
“I will make sure 87,000 IRS agents do not come after you,” Smiley said.
The candidates clashed over abortion, with Smiley saying she was pro-life but opposed a nationwide ban. She said the issue should be left up to the residents of each state.
“This should not be decided by politicians,” Murray replied. “I will pass legislation to codify Roe v. Wade.”
On the issue of the insurrection of Jan. 6, 2021, Murray said we must fight to save our democracy. Smiley said her husband lost his eyesight to a suicide bomber in Iraq while in the Army working to save democracy.
“We live in the greatest country in the world,” Smiley said.
Smiley said the state has a “crime crisis” and that “crime is on the rise everywhere,” while the federal government does little in response. Murray said crime is a local, state and federal issue and pointed to the easy availability of guns as one reason.
Murray said she would support gun control legislation, while Smiley said she supported the Second Amendment.
The candidates disagreed on climate change, with Smiley calling for more energy production in the United States and Murray calling for investments in alternative energy resources.
Both said they would push to complete the cleanup of radioactive waste on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation near Richland, Washington.
Smiley and Murray disagreed on a proposal to breach four hydroelectric dams on the Snake River to save declining salmon runs, with Smiley opposing it on grounds that the dams were essential to the economy. Murray said salmon are also essential and she would work to save them.
The debate was sponsored by The Spokesman-Review newspaper, League of Women Voters, KSPS-TV and the Washington State Debate Coalition. Laurel Demkovich, a Spokesman-Review reporter, was the moderator.
Murray has declined to accept additional debates, but the two candidates will meet again next Sunday in a one-hour town hall format in Seattle.
Murray, 71, has run a slew of negative ads against Smiley, saying the Republican’s anti-abortion stance could threaten women’s rights and also trying to tie her to extremist elements within the GOP.
Murray has also tied Smiley to former President Donald Trump and his MAGA supporters, saying the insurrection of Jan. 6, 2021, was something voters should not forget.
Smiley, 41, has criticized Murray as a do-nothing senator and blamed her for crime and other social ills.
A native of Pasco, Washington, Smiley has tried to connect with voters by focusing on her personal story. She’s a former nurse who has highlighted her past advocacy for her husband, a military veteran who was blinded in an explosion while serving in Iraq in 2005.
Murray had raised more than $17.8 million as of the September reporting deadline, and had $3.7 million in the bank. Smiley had raised more than $12.8 million — far more than other recent GOP Senate challengers in Washington state — and had $2.4 million in the bank.
Washington hasn’t elected a Republican to the Senate since 1994.