Burke: What to value in a senator? Experience or half-truths

Put Patty Murray and Tiffany Smiley side by side and Murray is the only choice for the ballot.

By Tom Burke / Herald columnist

So who for the Senate in Washington state? It’s pretty clear: Sen. Patty Murray, Democrat.

The 10-second read on Murray: Experience delivers. Murray has the experience; has delivered for Washington; and her record proves it.

The 10-second read on Republican challenger Tiffany Smiley: poor positions; inexperience; falsehoody, half-truth, innuendo-filled bleating “We’re all victims campaign”; and the national ramifications of a Republican win.

Consider Smiley saying, without a trace of irony, “Voters have lost trust in politicians and have lost confidence in government. Recovering trust and confidence in government means reforming the way politicians behave and finding ways to hold them to account.”

Wow! Profound! But what does she mean?

Does she mean reforming the way many Republicans tried to overturn the 2020 election. And continue those tactics for the 2022 midterms?

Of course not. She’s a Republican.

Then perhaps she means holding fellow Republicans responsible for voting against the veterans’ PACT Act; against allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices; against the Inflation Reduction Act; against capping senior drug costs at $2,000 per year and insulin at $35 a month; and against the CHIPS Act to accelerate semiconductor manufacturing in the U.S.

We may never know.

Because Smiley bailed on a Herald editorial board interview with a B.S. excuse after reading a prepared statement with an unfounded MAGA-like attack against the paper, echoing Trump’s “the media is the enemy of the people” bleat. (Is dismissing Snohomish County voters the best way to “recover trust” by “reforming the way politicians behave?”)

So here are six questions Smiley should answer, because I can’t find anything about them on her website or reviewing her remarks:

• Do you condemn Trump’s Big Lie, that the election was stolen and voting here in Washington state was rigged?

• Do you condemn the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrectionists and Trump’s fake electors plot to overturn the vote?

• Do you believe that vote-by-mail leads to fraud?

• Do you think, as party leader Trump states, “I don’t believe we’ll ever have a fair election again. I don’t believe it.” (And if she doesn’t believe Trump, is she just a RINO?)

• Would you support Trump for president in 2024.

• Will you honor the results of this election, regardless of who wins?

And for illustrative purposes, here are three of her “positions.”

• “Preventing the IRS from harassing middle-class families and small businesses with the 87,000 agents they plan to hire to investigate American taxpayers.”

The facts: They’ll be 87,000 new hires over the next 10 years, and not all “agents”; to replace losses to retirements and cuts and to help recover the $600 billion annual “tax gap,” taxes owed but uncollected.

• “Banning the teaching of divisive ideology like Critical Race Theory from our elementary schools.”

Outright baloney; a shocking lack of knowledge; or a calculated misstatement? (Critical Race Theory is not taught in state elementary schools, but actual history, as ugly as it might be, is. And U.S. senators don’t dictate local school curriculum.)

• “Make local governments who have defunded their police legally liable for personal and property damages.”

The Senate doesn’t do that stuff. (And I’d like to see her write that piece of ill-conceived legislation, precisely defining — and anticipating a Supreme Court review — of the terms “defunded,” “legally liable” and “personal and property damages.” Does this demonstrate her legislative and governance inexperience or is it just more MAGA-centric smoke?

Now, Patty Murray’s accomplishments and leadership roles are a matter of public record. Have been through her 30 years in the Senate. And a sampling of what she has pending in Congress gives us a sense of her priorities:

• Northwest Straits Marine Conservation Initiative, promoting the protection of the resources of the Northwest Straits.

• Let Doctors Provide Reproductive Health Care Act ensuring doctors’ right to provide reproductive health care services.

• Helping Heroes Act of 2022 improving services provided by the Veterans Administration to veteran families.

• PREVENT Pandemics Act to prepare for, and respond to, existing viruses, emerging new threats and pandemics.

The differences between Murray and Smiley stand in stark relief:

On legislative and governmental experience:

• Murray: teacher, school board member, state Senate, and 30 years in U.S. Senate

• Smiley: No elected experience.

On women’s reproductive rights:

• Murray: Would codify Roe v Wade protecting women’s right to choose.

• Smiley: “100 percent pro-life,” giving Republicans a Senate majority that would ease a national abortion ban from Sen. Lindsey Graham’s bill.

On the Republican threat to democracy:

• Murray: “MAGA Republicans want to seize power. … Our democracy is in real danger. It’s up to all of us to save it … because democracy is on the ballot.”

• Smiley: “You can count on me to always be a rock-solid conservative vote.” (Like Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert and Graham?)

After spending hours and hours reviewing Smiley’s campaign, I think her motto is, “Head for the roundhouse, they can’t corner me there.” Is she deliberately vague or just too new at this to actually offer more than platitudes?

Murray’s motto (as I see it): “Bring it on.”

Gentle reader, the choice couldn’t be clearer. A governance, legislative and public policy neophyte, and as described by Trump-endorsed Republican candidate Joe Kent as “Pure MAGA” or an experienced, powerful legislator who’s brought home the bacon to Washington voters for 30 years.

Vote Blue.

Slava Ukraini.

Tom Burke’s email address is t.burke.column@gmail.com. Tom Burke is not a member of The Herald Editorial Board and does not participate in its endorsement process. The views expressed here are his own.

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