BELLEVUE — Despite what many thought would be a closer-than-normal race, 30-year incumbent Sen. Patty Murray easily defeated her Republican challenger Tiffany Smiley, giving her a sixth term.
It was one of several highlights for Democrats in key, high-profile races in Washington.
As of Tuesday, Murray had just over 57% of the vote, and Smiley, a Republican veterans advocate from Pasco, had more than 42% of the vote.
Cheers rang out in the state Democratic Party celebration shortly after polls closed at 8 p.m. when a number of national news outlets began calling the race for Murray. As Murray took the stage in Bellevue's Westin Hotel, the crowd chanted "Patty! Patty! Patty!"
"You guys, we did it," Murray said. "You threw yourselves into this fight to keep our democracy a democracy."
As of Tuesday, Democrats also led in the secretary of state race and were ahead in tighter races in the highly contested 3rd and 8th Congressional Districts.
More ballots will be counted in the coming days, so the exact results of the race are likely to change. County auditors were anticipating a later-than-normal surge in voting, meaning it could be the end of this week or early next before most ballots are counted.
Despite high hopes from Republicans that they could take the seat, Tuesday's results don't reflect the closest results Murray's had in her previous U.S. Senate runs. Her closest race thus far was in 2010, when Murray defeated Republican Dino Rossi by five percentage points.
Smiley quickly became Republicans' top choice in trying this year to unseat Murray.
Smiley didn't immediately concede, telling her supporters at a Republican watch party that there were still more than 50% of the votes to count.
"I'm not disappointed in anything that I've seen tonight," she said.
Like many campaigns across the country, the two candidates followed party talking points, with Murray pushing abortion as a key issue and arguing democracy itself is at stake this year and Smiley criticizing Murray for being lax on crime and not doing enough to fight inflation.
Throughout the campaign, Smiley painted herself as a new face for Washington in the Senate, criticizing Murray for being in the Senate for nearly three decades.
Murray pushed back, touting her work on a number of bipartisan pieces of legislation and funding, which she says have lowered costs in a number of categories, including prescription drugs, health insurance and energy bills. She also pointed to her support for more resources for retention and mental health for law enforcement in addressing crime.
Murray made abortion her top issue this election season, claiming Smiley could be a key vote for a nationwide abortion ban if elected. Though Smiley identifies as pro-life, she has repeatedly said she would not vote for a nationwide abortion ban, as she believes it should be left up to the voters to decide.
On Tuesday, Murray said the choice couldn't have been more clear this election.
"And Washington, I think you made the right choice," she said.
At the state Democratic party watch party, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell praised Washington voters for sending Murray back to the Senate.
"Washington knows the difference between rhetoric and reality," she said.
The race drew millions of dollars from state and national donors as both parties fought to win Murray's seat in what is normally considered a Democratic stronghold. Republicans spent more money this year than any other previous Senate run in Washington.
Murray has raised more than $18.7 million this election and spent almost $21 million, more than double what she spent in 2016. Smiley has raised more than $16.5 million and spent almost $14.8 million. In 2018, Republican Susan Hutchinson only raised about $2 million in her campaign against Washington's other Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell.
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