Washington's Murray heads back to the Senate
(AllPolitics, November 3) -- Democrat Patty Murray captured a second term in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday by beating two-term Congresswoman Linda Smith in Washington state.
Murray and Smith disagreed on nearly everything. Smith opposes abortion, state hiring preferences for minorities and women, hate-crime legislation and most-favored-nation trade status for China. Her positions are the opposite of Murray's.
Six years ago, Murray was the "mom in tennis shoes," the everywoman elected in the so-called "Year of the Woman" that transformed the U.S. Senate. As a first-term senator, though, she was targeted by Republicans early in the 1998 campaign.
Smith, like Murray, has cultivated an image as an outsider and reformer. She announced early for the seat and marshaled an army of grass-roots supporters who liked her anti-abortion, anti-tax stances.
Polling late in the campaign suggested that moderate Republicans, in general, were rallying behind Smith, despite her more conservative views.
The tireless campaigner emphasized her own populism, and voted against the GOP tax-cut proposal so she could demonstrate her commitment to Social Security. Murray tried to portray Smith as too conservative and out of step.
Murray tried to connect with voters the way she did in 1992. "I am the only senator in the history of this country to be a preschool teacher before I became a United States senator," Murray told one amused audience.
But she battled perceptions that her Senate record was thin at best. A newspaper endorsing her said her grasp of issues was "much improved," despite a "slow learning curve."
Murray held a big advantage in the money war and hit her opponent with lots of negative TV ads. There were nearly $1 million in "issue ads" attacking Smith, financed by the Democratic Party.
"Smith voted against Head Start. Smith voted against school lunches," declared one ad sponsored by the Washington state Democrats.
The two women debated only once, and that session was broadcast during a World Series game, undoubtedly reducing viewership.
Smith accused Murray of hiding behind her attack ads.
"This will be interesting to see if she can run a total, media-only campaign, with just negative ads, and hide, or whether that's going to be her last race," Smith said at one point.
The two candidates did agree on the need for more restrictive campaign finance legislation. That may have been why Republican campaign chairman Sen. Mitch McConnell, (R-Kentucky), withheld party money from fellow Republican Smith.
"They tell us they do not have enough money at this point to fully fund this race," Dale Foreman, Washington state's Republican Party chairman, complained in late October.
But when asked if he believed that lack of funds was the real reason the GOP pocketbook was closed to Smith, Foreman admitted, "I'm skeptical. I think that they have made a decision that Linda is (an) outspoken opponent of campaign finance reform."
Smith refused to take political action committee (PAC) money, while Murray accepted more than $500,000 from PACs, with no apologies. Murray's PAC money and party support added up to nearly a $2 million advantage over Smith.
Their race was only the third time in history that two women have squared off in a general election for the U.S. Senate.
CNN's Brooks Jackson and political analyst Stuart Rothenberg contributed to this report.
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