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Murray, Smiley talk Trump endorsement, COVID-19 shutdowns and abortion on Sunday show

Sept. 4, 2022 Updated Sun., Sept. 4, 2022 at 9:01 p.m.

Democratic Sen. Patty Murray and GOP challenger Tiffany Smiley.
Democratic Sen. Patty Murray and GOP challenger Tiffany Smiley.

Washington’s Republican candidate for Senate declined to say Sunday if she still is actively seeking the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, while the incumbent defended the decisions to close schools in the immediate aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union” program Sunday morning with Dana Bash, Tiffany Smiley and Patty Murray gave their pitches for the vote in the November election, addressing the campaign issue of abortion and responding to President Joe Biden’s speech Thursday in which he said certain followers of the former president who rejected the election results “represent an extremism that threatens the very foundation of our republic.”

“I was very disappointed with his speech,” Smiley, who spoke first, told Bash, before criticizing Murray for not agreeing to additional debates in the Senate race.

Bash, at that point, asked Smiley if she believed “Joe Biden won the 2020 election fair and square.”

“Yes. He’s our president, yes,” Smiley responded.

When Bash pressed Smiley if she believed he was “fairly elected, legitimately elected,” the Republican responded with the same line.

“You didn’t say that he was legitimately elected. I just want you to give a chance to say that, or – and if you are comfortable with your answer, we will move on,” Bash said.

“Yes, I think I made that clear,” Smiley said. “He is our president.”

Smiley, 41, is seeking to unseat Murray, 71, who has been in office since 1993. Murray earned 52.2% of the vote in a crowded August primary for the seat. Smiley won 33.7%.

Murray, when asked about Biden’s comments, said “our democracy is at risk today.”

“We have to get back to a point where we all say that brute force, and incitement of that brute force, and the questions that the president and his followers continue to put there about whether or not that election was legitimate incites that,” Murray said.

Bash also asked Smiley if she stood by a statement in March that she would welcome Trump’s endorsement. Smiley did not answer directly, saying instead that she was “laser-focused on the endorsement of the voters in Washington state.”

Murray was asked about a national-level Democratic political action committee attacking moderate candidates in party primaries in an apparent effort to forward more fringe candidates to the general election, conceivably helping the Democratic candidate emerge victorious. Bash asked, specifically, about the race for Senate in New Hampshire, where the Senate Majority PAC is spending millions of dollars attacking Chuck Morse, a GOP state senator. He’s running against Don Buldoc, a retired Army general who has signed a letter stating Trump won the 2020 election and in response to the FBI’s search of Trump’s property in Florida questioned if the federal investigative agency was still needed.

“If election deniers are a threat to our democracy, are you OK with your fellow Democrats helping them win primaries?” Bash asked.

Murray, in her answer, did not directly address the spending in New Hampshire.

“I believe what Democratic supporters are doing is working to make sure that we have a Democratic majority in the United States Senate and the Congress,” Murray said.

Murray, chair of the Senate’s Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions, was asked if she believed the decline in test scores following pandemic-related school shutdowns were worth it, in hindsight.

“Remember, people were dying by the hundreds of thousands,” Murray said. “We did not want that to continue. People had to make choices on the best scientific and personal evidence that they had.”

Bash also asked both candidates to clarify their positions on abortion, which has become a key issue in the race. Smiley recently released ads saying that while she identifies as “pro-life,” she does not support a federal ban on abortion as Murray has suggested in her own ads.

“I respect the voters of Washington state,” Smiley said. “And they long decided where they stand on the issue. I think the question that we need to be asking Patty Murray is – and you can ask her, Dana, you can ask her – does she believe in legal limitations to abortions?”

Murray said she supported codifying the legal protection that was in place before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

“What I believe is that we have a constitutional right in this country under Roe by the Supreme Court that allowed women, and their families, and their faith and their doctor, to make a decision for them about whether or not they should carry their pregnancy,” she said. “That is what the law and constitutional right of this was, until the Supreme Court overturned that. I believe that is the policy that we should have.”

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