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caption: Senator Patty Murray waves to supporters after speaking to a crowd on Tuesday, November 8, 2022, at an election night party at the Westin in Bellevue.
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Senator Patty Murray waves to supporters after speaking to a crowd on Tuesday, November 8, 2022, at an election night party at the Westin in Bellevue.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Washington Democrat Patty Murray wins in Senate race after first ballot count

Patty Murray was triumphant on election night.

UPDATE: Tiffany Smiley conceded to Sen. Patty Murray in Washington's race for the Senate on Wednesday evening, a day after initial election results were announced.

Original report: Nov. 8, 2022

Murray won her sixth term, beating Republican challenger Tiffany Smiley after the first ballot count in the battle to represent Washington state in the U.S. Senate, according to a race call by the Associated Press.

“Voters in Washington showed up. Thank you," Murray told supporters at a Democratic Party gathering in Bellevue.

County election officials had tallied fewer than 50% of ballots by Tuesday night, but Murray led by more than 241,000 votes.

At the Republican election night party nearby, Tiffany Smiley did not concede.

"We’re confident when every legal vote is counted we can turn the tide,” she told supporters.

Pre-election polls indicated that Murray might have a tougher contest on her hands this year, particularly compared to 2016, when she sailed past then-Republican Chris Vance by 18 percentage points.

caption: Supporters of U.S. Senator Patty Murray cheer as she takes the stage during an election night party on Tuesday, November 8, 2022, at the Westin in Bellevue.
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Supporters of U.S. Senator Patty Murray cheer as she takes the stage during an election night party on Tuesday, November 8, 2022, at the Westin in Bellevue.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Nationally, several key races were too close to call on election night, and the balance of power in Congress remained tight. Analysts had predicted that strong political winds might blow against Democrats nationally, due to voter dissatisfaction with the incumbents, especially on inflation and crime. Attack ads hammered Murray here on both issues.

In one TV ad, Smiley accused Murray of being responsible for Seattle’s rising prices and crime rate, citing the fact that Starbucks closed some coffee shops this year over what it called “safety concerns” in the downtown core. The ad suggested excessive federal government spending was to blame for Starbucks raising coffee prices but did not make clear what role Smiley thinks Murray supposedly played in local politics or in Seattle’s violent crime rate.

By election day, Republican Tiffany Smiley’s campaign had reported raising over $16 million, and political action committees spent an additional $9 million to help get her elected.

In ads and speeches, Smiley also emphasized her personal story, pointing to her experience as a nurse and later fighting “government bureaucracy” to help her husband get the care he needed after being blinded in a terrorist attack while serving in Iraq.

Smiley supporter Nicole Steiner of Sammamish said she felt like Smiley’s candidacy inspired more people to vote.

“I hope she pulls through in the end," Steiner said. "Of course, it’s disappointing to see Murray ahead. But I know that Republicans come out at the ‘day of’ voting, so there’s still a chance and hope.”

Murray's campaign raised nearly $19 million, with PACs also spending nearly $8 million in support.

caption: Senator Patty Murray celebrates with family on stage after speaking to supporters during an election night party on Tuesday, November 8, 2022, at the Westin in Bellevue.
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Senator Patty Murray celebrates with family on stage after speaking to supporters during an election night party on Tuesday, November 8, 2022, at the Westin in Bellevue.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

In ads, and on the campaign trail, Murray and her supporters painted Smiley as an extremist who would partner with MAGA Republicans on abortion and other issues.

Murray got her start in politics as an education activist. She was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1992 with the slogan “just a mom in tennis shoes” – a reference to a put-down from a male lawmaker that Murray turned into an appeal to working-class women voters.

Today she’s the nation’s sixth-most senior Senator, and chairs the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. She also holds a senior leadership role on the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee. If Democrats hang onto the Senate next year, she could reportedly take the helm.

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