Murray, a member of Democratic leadership, faced potentially her fiercest election challenge since her initial 1992 bid for Senate. The contest between Smiley and Murray has drawn mountains of campaign dollars to Washington.
On Tuesday night, as Democrats gathered for an official election-watching party in Bellevue, cheers erupted as Murray got up to speak. Murray, surrounded by family, thanked supporters for helping campaign and get out voters.
“You threw yourself into this fight to keep our democracy a democracy,” Murray said. “You all sent a message using your voice and your votes to determine the direction of this country.”
Throughout the autumn, the race for Murray’s sixth term has been considered tighter than initially expected, amid rising prices for gas and groceries and political headwinds faced by President Joe Biden’s administration.
The combined $36 million spent by the two campaigns — $21 million by Murray and $15 million by Smiley — makes this contest the most expensive U.S. Senate race in Washington in four decades. That sum does not include spending by outside political organizations seeking to influence voters through barrages of advertisements.
During the campaign, Murray has defended the Biden administration’s accomplishments, including the COVID-19 aid package passed last year that helped fund schools, emergency responders, rent relief and other needs amid the global pandemic. Murray has likewise touted the Inflation Reduction Act, which passed this summer. That legislation includes the largest package in congressional history to fight climate change, as well as provisions that lower the cost of prescriptions drugs and health care costs for many.
Murray currently chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee and also has a senior perch on the Appropriations Committee. A member of Democratic leadership, Murray has vowed to protect abortion rights in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s rollback of federal protections and to make child care more accessible. The senator has also sought to address crime by strengthening gun laws — including the return of a federal prohibition on so-called assault weapons.
A first-time candidate, Smiley began her career as a nurse, but quickly changed trails to advocate for veterans during the recovery of her husband after he returned from military service in Iraq injured and blinded. She has sought to blame rising prices for gas and groceries and some increases in crime on Democratic policies and has vowed to cut spending programs. Smiley has also called for boosting domestic fossil-fuel energy production and stemming immigration at America’s southern border.
Smiley has vowed to cut government spending in order to tackle inflation. While she is pro-life, Smiley said she supports states' rights to keep abortion legal — and it is legal in Washington — and that she opposes a federal ban on the procedure.
Murray’s tightest Senate election ever came in 2010, when she faced off against Republican and former gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi. She ultimately prevailed by nearly 5 percentage points.