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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Audience members listened closely to debates Sunday; some swayed, others unmoved

During the Northwest Passages Eastern Washington Debates moderated by Spokesman-Review reporter Laurel Demkovich, nonpartisan Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson debates incumbent Democrat Steve Hobbs to determine who will replace Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman, before a live audience at Gonzaga University’s Myrtle Woldson Performing Arts Center, Sunday, Oct. 23, 2022. The event was sponsored by the the Spokesman-Review, League of Women Voters, KSPS-TV and the Washington Debate Coalition.  (Colin Mulvany/The Spokesman-Review)
From staff reports

From staff reports

Some voters who attended the United States Senate and Washington State Secretary of State debates Sunday night were swayed by candidates performances, while others’ minds remained unchanged.

Sunday was the first time Democratic Sen. Patty Murray and Republican challenger Tiffany Smiley debated. Attendees, like Mary Roe of Spokane, said their performances didn’t change her mind.

Roe said she was a Murray supporter prior to the debate and remained one afterward.

“Every question that came up, she drew a direct line to Patty Murray, as though one person is responsible for every ill,” Roe said. “And then she drew a direct line to herself as being the savior.

“Nothing works that way,” Roe said. “It’s simplistic; it’s understated in terms of showing what you’ve accomplished that would address a point.”

Don Russell, 53, described himself as closer to the center than most of his fellow Republicans, but his career as a small business owner has been largely harmed by Murray’s support of Democratic policies, he said. Russell wants someone new in the position.

“She’s been back there too long,” he said. “There needs to be term limits.”

Russell’s wife Jana Russell, 52, is similarly concerned with Murray’s long tenure in the senate.

“She does have the Washington, D.C., talking points,” she said. “Not the Washington state talking points, the things that are impacting our lives.”

A few high-profile political leaders also were in the audience.

U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, said Smiley successfully outlined a new vision.

“I thought Tiffany delivered a real clear, passionate appeal to be an independent voice for Washington state,” McMorris Rodgers said.

Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell also was in the crowd. She said Murray gave “substantive answers” that pointed to important legislation Murray has championed and helped approve that improve the lives of veterans and other Washingtonians.

Voters were swayed in what polls say remains an extremely close race between Secretary of State Steve Hobbs and Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson. The two candidates debated prior to the Senate debate.

Maureen Smith said she changed her vote following the debate.

“He made facial expressions that were dismissive of her,” she said. “That in and of itself didn’t sway me though – it was her opinions and her ability to talk across the aisle.”

The debate helped some voters, like 21-year-old Gonzaga student Izzy Girtz make up their mind.

“I think we’re lucky to have two good candidates. I do think upon reading the voters guide they both seem qualified,” Girtz said. “I like (Julie Anderson) more because of her well-developed responses and she showed a good grasp of the content.”

Other audience members said were more impressed by Hobbs’ emphasis on cybersecurity.

“I’m interested in hearing about the cybersecurity aspect of it,” said Martha Jones, a retiree. “That needs to be an aspect we are addressing. The background Hobbs has may have moved the needle for me.”