TUMWATER, Thurston County — U.S. Sen. Patty Murray and her challenger, Tiffany Smiley, stumped across Western Washington on Monday, making a final push for votes and delivering closing arguments for the Democratic and Republican tickets as the clock ran down on a competitive and high-stakes midterm.
Smiley spent Monday searching for votes in the south Puget Sound region. She began the day in Allyn, a tiny Mason County town on Case Inlet. Traveling in her campaign-branded bus, she headed about 50 miles south where she spoke in Tumwater just before noon, before ending the day in Tacoma.
Murray stayed close to the liberal stronghold of King County, joining Democratic congressional incumbents speaking with volunteers and canvassers at events in Bothell and Issaquah, and ending in the afternoon at the Machinists Hall in Seattle.
Both top-of-the-ticket candidates emphasized the need for voters to send in their ballots, and get friends and family to do likewise. As of Monday evening, 39% of voters had returned ballots, according to the Secretary of State’s Office. That’s compared with nearly 48% at the same point in the last midterm election four years ago.
In Tumwater, Smiley spoke to about 70 supporters in a dead-end parking lot under a persistent morning drizzle.
In a 14-minute speech that stressed her family’s story of military service and hit issues of crime, inflation, education and government spending, Smiley kept returning to Murray’s long tenure in office.
“Thirty years and this is where we are, no more. A new day is dawning,” Smiley said. “But each and every one of us has to do our part.
“When you vote, make sure it’s not just you voting, but that you’re telling 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, if you’re really ambitious, 100.”
Smiley was introduced by U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, a Montana Republican who said he’d recently been campaigning with Republicans in most every swing Senate race in the country – Ohio, Georgia, Arizona, Nevada – but, Washington, he said, “is the sleeper race, this is the shock.”
Smiley’s supporters in Tumwater were similarly focused on Murray’s long career.
“Patty Murray hasn’t done anything for this state in 30 years,” said Rebecca O’Sullivan, of Lacey.
She appreciates Smiley’s support of the military and worries about Democratic efforts to restrict gun rights. “Last time I saw, we are still a republic, not trying to convert to a Marxist country,” she said.
Ryan Moore walked down the street to see Smiley from the RV repair shop he owns with his father, because “it’s time for stuff to change.”
Crime and education are his biggest issues. He said he’s filing about a police report a week, because of people rifling through the shop’s trash or stealing catalytic converters.
Desiree Bloomstrom, his partner, said she’s scared to take their kids, ages 2 and 3, to downtown Olympia. And they’re nervous about sending their kids to public schools. “I’d like to send my kids there to learn and not have them be told everybody else’s opinion,” Moore said.
About an hour after the Smiley appearance, during a break in the rain, Murray spoke to a few dozen volunteers under a picnic shelter at Tibbetts Valley Park in Issaquah before they set out to knock on doors to remind people to vote.
Joining Murray were U.S. Rep. Kim Schrier, D-Sammamish, who is facing a difficult reelection contest against Republican challenger Matt Larkin, as well as U.S. Reps. Suzan DelBene, D-Medina, and Adam Smith, D-Bellevue.
Murray sounded confident in her own prospects of winning a sixth term, but urged Democrats to guard against complacency and work to help Schrier and other down-ballot candidates.
“We’re going to run through the tape, and we’re going to do it by making sure everybody gets out to vote,” Murray said. “Every ballot that goes in that box between now and 8 o’clock tomorrow will be the difference between an absolutely amazing celebration — which I’m predicting — or not.”
Murray sounded exasperated by Smiley’s litany of complaints about the direction of the country around issues including the economy and crime.
“I know she can go on television and whine and tell you about all of the problems we have. But you know what Democrats are? We are not whiners, we are doers,” Murray said, citing Democratic legislation on climate, lowering prescription drug costs and preserving abortion rights.
“I’m not Mitch McConnell’s handpicked candidate for this seat. I’m yours,” Murray added.
Schrier acknowledged the challenges she’s facing in the swing 8th Congressional District. “This is a squeaky-tight race. Whether you believe it or not, it is squeaky-tight,” she said.
Schrier said she had already been personally doorbelling homes in the morning and planned to continue into the evening.
Dawn Weatherman, a Democratic volunteer from Duvall at the event, said she’s concerned about Republican criticisms about inflation — which polls show driving a potential red wave — that leave out the role of Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine and price-gouging by big corporations.
“Misconceptions of the truth are basically my biggest concern, but also just hope for the future. I’m here to promote hope,” she said, noting a faster-than-expected economic recovery since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Despite all the partisan divisions making newspaper headlines and cable news shows, Weatherman said her everyday connections with friends and neighbors “across the aisle” also give her optimism.
“What we see in the news is not at all what I live here. … No one is really out there throwing punches in the street,” she said. “The news is a list of all the bad things that happen in a day. It is not a sample of the society.”