Editor's Note: For a story focused on Democrat Sen. Patty Murray's candidacy, click here.
Laying equal claim to the relatable mom Sen. Patty Murray, D-Bothell, has long marketed herself as, Tiffany Smiley, R-Pasco, is taking on the sixth most senior senator in the United States in the hopes to represent Washington.
In a play off Murray’s “mom in tennis shoes” slogan coined in the 1990s, Smiley, 41, told The Reflector earlier this month “there’s a new mom in town.”
She has three sons and her husband is the U.S. Military’s first-ever blind active duty officer, thanks to her and her family’s advocacy for him after being injured in the line of duty in Iraq in 2005.
Smiley resigned from her position as a nurse in her early 20s to care and advocate for her husband.
“I had student loan debt. I had a car payment. And I walked into my husband’s trauma care unit where he was barely alive,” she said, adding later, “Thank God I was a nurse and I wasn’t afraid of the medical system. In fact, I knew everything I needed to do to stand up and be a voice for Scotty.”
From a young age, she said, the experience with her husband’s fight to continue his service taught her the value of building coalitions. In those moments, she said, you don’t care about people’s politics — you’re working together for the greater good.
“That’s what our country has got to get back to. I built coalitions who believed in this wild idea that my husband could stay on active duty. … People said, ‘You’re crazy, you’re not going to change anything.’ But I just really saw the power of bringing people together,” she said.
She contrasted this to Congress, saying electeds need to focus on servant leadership and working across the aisle to deliver results for future generations.
She has put veterans on the top of her platform, she said, including a promise to work on increasing health care access through telehealth.
Smiley and Murray had back-and-forth on a debate setting, which will be held on Oct. 23 in Spokane. When asked what she respected about Murray, Smiley said, “We did agree on one debate and that’s a good first step forward. I think that’s very, very important. I wish there was more.”
She said the debate was originally set for Oct. 7 before being pushed back by Murray’s campaign until after ballots dropped, which Smiley called a “slap in the face to voters.”
Smiley said inflation is the number one issue affecting families across Washington, noting the rising cost of living due to groceries, gas and energy bills.
Murray, she said, was “touted for her efforts” on the American Rescue Plan Act, which provided economic stimulus during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. But Smiley said there were even Democratic economists warning of the effects the plan would have on inflation.
“That is exactly what it did. And we know it affects the lower class and middle class the most, but it’s a hidden tax on every single American,” Smiley said before criticizing Murray as the deciding vote to increase taxes on natural gas. “You will see your energy prices go up here in Washington state heading into winter.”
Further, she knocked Murray for supporting student loan repayment cancellation as “wiping out any hope for doing something for inflation.”
If elected, Smiley said she would seek to limit IRS agents from “harassing” families and businesses. Creating jobs, reducing “wasteful” spending and creating tax cuts for the middle class are also on her economic checklist, referring to former President Donald Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. She said she would “permanently extend” the scope of that legislation.
“And ensure that the government never pays able bodied workers to stay home,” she said.
Smiley also mentioned the environmental standards related to American energy manufacturing, saying Russia and China don’t have the same rules but that Murray “shut down” the country’s energy dependence before she “gave it” to those other nations. In the short-term, Smiley said she would focus on relaxing permitting on oil production while planning long-term reliance on clean energy such as wind and solar power.
“I truly believe that becoming energy independent will also help with the rising cost of living and offset those energy bills and gas prices. We need to be energy independent,” Smiley said.
Asked about Murray’s early-career focus on the national debt, Smiley said she worries for future generations, adding the country “cannot afford another six years (of Murray).”
“I am personally pro-life,” Smiley said when asked about her stance on abortion.
There are good people on both sides of the issue, she said, and she opposes a federal abortion ban.
“I even opposed that prior to the unprecedented Supreme Court leak,” related to the decision overturning Roe v. Wade, she said. “The Supreme Court decision gave the power back to the people, and that’s exactly where it should belong. I will respect the will of the voters of Washington.”
And in Washington, she said, voters long ago decided where they stand on abortion.
She then called Murray extreme for her stance, which Smiley called “taxpayer-funded abortion on demand all the way up to the point of birth.”
Of the most commonly cited concerns for families of Southwest Washington is rising crime. When asked about the federal opportunities for support against crime, Smiley said she likes to remind voters that crime is not just in Seattle.
“I talk with sheriffs all over this state,” she said.
Blaming the nation’s southern border, Smiley said drugs are “plaguing the state and killing our children.”
To stop the flow of illicit substances, she said if elected, she would immediately work to secure the border.
“I went to the border and I saw it with my own eyes. I saw the cartel boats. They put drugs in and just push over into the United States of America. We know that fentanyl is coming across our southern border, so that’s something I can get to work on right away on the federal level to help protect our kids in the state and help get drugs off the street,” Smiley said.
She mentioned fentanyl’s effect on homelessness in the state as well, saying she recently toured encampments and spoke with unhoused people on the issue who reported its addictiveness. Smiley said substance abuse drives crime, encouraging people to steal in order to purchase the drug.
Next, she listed supporting the work of Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison to prosecute recidivism.
In a time of low staffing levels at law enforcement agencies across the state, Smiley talked about using federal dollars to offer $5,000 bonuses for hiring and retention in Washington.
“We need good police officers here,” she said.
With the high polarization of the political climate, Murray and supporters have criticized Smiley as extreme. Murray said she decided to run for office again after reflection on the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. She called candidates who support the idea that Trump won the 2020 presidential election “dangerous.”
Asked if the election was stolen, Smiley said, “No. The election was not stolen. I’ve been very clear about that from the beginning of our campaign.”
She said with moms driving around the state to buy baby formula on gas that costs nearly $6 a gallon, there are “real issues” affecting Washington families that need to be addressed and the country needs to “move forward.”
On her agenda for recovery and reform of the nation, she said, she intends to increase trust in the political system among voters. To work for bipartisanship, she said, she would pledge to hold 10 town halls across Washington during a term. Further, Smiley said anyone who can’t pass a budget in Congress due to lack of teamwork shouldn’t earn their yearly paycheck.
“We need people to make sure that they exercise their right to vote. It is so important in this election. So I hope that everyone … will get registered and make sure that they’re voting and voting in this election because this is very, very important for the future of our state and this country,” Smiley said.
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