Recap: 5 takeaways from the U.S. Senate debate

Sen. Patty Murray and Tiffany Smiley clashed on climate change, Snake River dams, and immigration. Watch the recording here.

Patty Murray and Tiffany Smiley

Patty Murray and Tiffany Smiley participate in the U.S. Senate debate at Gonzaga University in Spokane on Oct. 23, 2022. (Colin Mulvany/The Spokesman-Review)

Voters looking for a thorough understanding of the differences between U.S. Senator Patty Murray and her Republican opponent, Tiffany Smiley, should probably skip this recap and watch the replay of the hour-long debate.

For those with more knowledge about the race between one of the most powerful Democrats in the other Washington and the Republican activist who believes Murray has overstayed her welcome after 30 years in the U.S. Senate, the debate on Sunday, Oct. 23 in Spokane on the Gonzaga University campus likely confirmed what they already thought of the race. 

Here’s how the candidates tackled some of the bigger issues that arose during the debate:

1. Immigration (15th minute)

When asked whether she would support comprehensive immigration reform, Smiley spent her 90 seconds talking about how the real issue at the border is fentanyl, a synthetic opioid.

Murray, who said she believes in immigration reform and a path to citizenship for people who are in this country without authorization, corrected Smiley’s statement that the senator has probably never even been to the southern border. She went to the border with a pediatrician to check on the welfare of children who had been separated from their parents during the Trump administration. Murray also said immigration and taking care of asylum-seekers should no longer be a political fight. “We are a country of immigrants and we can do better,” Murray said.

2. Abortion (21st minute)

The basics: Murray wants to codify access to abortion in federal law by passing a bill through Congress. Smiley doesn’t.

Smiley said politicians shouldn’t be in the doctor’s office with women and their doctors. Murray countered by asking whether that thinking applies to the state politicians who are now deciding whether women have the right to an abortion.

Smiley said Washington women will continue to have a right to an abortion.

Murray said that won’t be true if Republicans take over Congress and pass a bill outlawing abortion across the nation.

Voter Guide Washington State 2022

3. Snake River Dams (27th minute)

Murray detailed her involvement in the discussion on efforts to save salmon by eliminating dams along the Snake River. Smiley said that taking down the dams would turn out the lights in every home in Washington. “Technology protects our salmon,” Smiley said. “We need to protect our dams.”

Murray did not promise or even advocate for removing dams to save salmon – anytime soon. She said other things should be done for both the salmon and shoring up Washington’s energy independence, and then in the future, the dams could come down to save the salmon.

4. Crime and guns (40th minute)

Smiley claimed crime is on the rise everywhere and it’s Murray’s fault.

Murray said crime is an issue that needs to be addressed at the local, state and federal level. She favors an assault-weapons ban, improving background checks, banning ghost guns, researching gun violence and enforcing existing gun laws. Murray said she is also working on legislation to increase mental health resources.

5. Climate change (46th minute)

Smiley said she believes the answer is more home-grown energy, including fossil fuels, and lower fuel prices. She did not answer the moderator’s question about whether humans are the cause of climate change, even though she was given two chances to do so. But she did say humans in other countries are polluting more than those in the United States.

Murray talked about the impacts of extreme heat in the Pacific Northwest, including damage to the shellfish industry. She spoke about the economic and health impacts of climate change and the ways humans are contributing to the problem.

They disagreed about nearly every other subject in the debate: education during the pandemic, health care for veterans, health care for everyone else and the political divide.

The time stamps in this story have been changed to make it easier to find these segments because the recording of the debate starts 10 minutes earlier than the actual debate.

A shot of the stage at Gonzaga University as Patty Murray and Tiffany Smiley debate.
During the Secretary of State debates moderated by Spokesman-Review reporter Laurel Demkovich, Democratic incumbent Patty Murray debates Republican candidate Tiffany Smiley, before a live audience at Gonzaga University’s Myrtle Woldson Performing Arts Center, Sunday, Oct. 23, 2022. The event was sponsored by the Spokesman-Review, League of Women Voters, KSPS-TV and the Washington Debate Coalition. (Colin Mulvany/The Spokesman-Review)

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