- The Washington Times
Friday, August 19, 2022

SEATTLESenate Republicans, who are struggling to gain traction in key swing state races ahead of the midterm elections, are venturing deeper into Democratic territory.

They’re betting that crime, inflation and President Biden‘s low approval numbers will make some blue state seats more competitive and force Democrats to spend money defending them. 

Senate Republicans are pouring cash into the Washington Senate race and say they are putting Democratic incumbent Sen. Patty Murray “on her heels” with campaign ads promoting GOP newcomer Tiffany Smiley

The seat, which Mrs. Murray has held since 1993, isn’t likely to flip. Nonpartisan race analysts list Washington as “solid Democrat,” and Mrs. Murray ranked first in the August nonpartisan primary with 54% of the vote, compared to Ms. Smiley‘s 32%. 

Political analysts have been predicting a “red wave” in November based on polls showing voter disapproval of Mr. Biden and concerns about rocketing inflation, high gas prices and crime. House Republicans appear poised to retake the majority but Senate GOP candidates are trailing in almost all the competitive swing-state races. 

Still, the Republicans’ investment in Mrs. Smiley‘s campaign in deep-blue Washington forces Democrats to spend money on the race, diverting resources from states with more competitive matchups that could tip control of the Senate, including Ohio, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Nevada and Arizona. 

SEE ALSO: Democrats beating back ‘red wave’: ‘Senate races are just different’

Mrs. Murray has spent more than $1 million so far in campaign advertising attacking Mrs. Smiley and bolstering her image with voters. 

Republicans see an opening to weaken Mrs. Murray by tying her to inflation and crime, which are listed as the top concerns among 2022 voters.

In total, the National Republican Senatorial Committee spent $765,000 in August for one week’s worth of television ads in Washington state, targeting Mrs. Murray.

The ad shows Mrs. Murray‘s face morphing into Mr. Biden‘s as a narrator declares the senator “just goes along” with Mr. Biden‘s agenda, which they link to increased gas, grocery and housing prices. 

The Senate GOP campaign arm spent $250,000 in Colorado for an identical advertisement featuring Democratic incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet. Mr. Bennet is facing GOP challenger Joe O’Dea in a race that is considered more competitive than the Washington contest but still likely to remain in Democratic hands. 

Part of Mrs. Smiley‘s campaign strategy is to focus on the crime wave in Seattle, where homelessness and drug use on the streets is rampant and crime has shot up. Violent crime increased in Seattle by 20% in 2021, robberies increased by 18%, arson by 31% and theft of vehicle parts or accessories by nearly 80%.

“What we are allowing here in Washington state is absolutely inhumane,” Mrs. Smiley said. “We allow people to live and die on our own streets doing drugs. It’s having a massive economic effect on business owners.”

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee cited Mrs. Murray‘s seniority in the Senate, where she chairs the Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, as well as the party’s stronghold in the state as key reasons why Mrs. Smiley is an unlikely victor.

“Washington hasn’t sent a Republican to the U.S. Senate since 1994 and handing Mitch McConnell the Senate majority is not a popular proposal in a state President Biden won by 20 points,” DSCC spokesman Patrick Burgwinkle said. 

• Mica Soellner can be reached at msoellner@washingtontimes.com.

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