Washington Senate: Murray calls for gun control after being accused of being soft on crime during debate

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., was put on the defensive during her debate with Republican Tiffany Smiley, who took aim at the incumbent senator’s record on crime amid a surge in crime across the country.

“We have a crime crisis in Washington state… crime is on the rise everywhere,” Smiley said during Sunday’s debate, which comes just over a week before next month’s midterm election. “My opponent, Senator Murray… she went on the Senate floor and she called for funds to be diverted from our police force. And then she disappeared and she went into hiding.”

“Our cities are being destroyed by crime, our police are not being supported,” Smiley continued. “In addition to the crime, we have fentanyl all over our streets… we’re allowing a humanitarian crisis to unfold right before our eyes, we’re allowing people to poison themselves to death, and we will do nothing.”

Smiley pinned the blame for the rise in crime on Murray and her fellow Democrats, but promised to make sure police departments receive the funding they need, repeat offenders are properly prosecuted, and vowed to work towards securing the border in an effort to fight the wave of crime and drug abuse.

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US Senator Patty Murray.

US Senator Patty Murray.
(REUTERS/Jon Cherry)

Murray responded by highlighting the funds made available to law enforcement in the American Rescue Plan, but also called for increased gun control in response to the crime crisis.

“In that slew of responses, you didn’t hear anything about gun violence,” Murray responded. “This is an issue we need to address. After Uvalde, we made some small steps at the federal level, but we need to ban dangerous weapons. We need to ban assault weapons, we need to make sure that we have really good background checks .”

Murray also promised to address the mental health crisis, while Smiley responded that it was essential to protect the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.

“Crime is out of control Senator Murray, you are to blame… 30 years in the senate and this is where we are, and it’s not just guns,” Smiley said.

Washington’s senate race has tightened significantly as the election nears, with the latest Seattle Times poll showing Murray’s Republican challenger has closed 10 points since the summer and now only stands eight points behind.

Tiffany Smiley, Republican candidate for US Senate in Washington.

Tiffany Smiley, Republican candidate for US Senate in Washington.
(Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc. via Getty Images)

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Murray led the poll 51-33 in July, with 16% of respondents saying they were undecided. But some of those undecided voters have seemingly begun to break Smiley’s way, with Murray’s lead shrinking to 49-41 with 10% of respondents saying they are still undecided.

Republican Senate candidates from across the country have been making gains in key races in recent weeks, turning a race for the upper chamber that once seemingly favored Democrats into a toss-up with just over a week to go before the elections.

In addition to the tightening race in Washington, recent polls have shown Republican Blake Masters making gains on incumbent Sen. Mark Kelly in Arizona, Republican Herschel Walker closing in on incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock in Georgia, and Republican Mehmet Oz get within striking distance of John Fetterman in Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, Republican Adam Laxalt has taken the polling lead on incumbent Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto in Nevada, according to the Real Clear Politics polling average.

Mehmet Oz, US Republican Senate candidate for Pennsylvania.

Mehmet Oz, US Republican Senate candidate for Pennsylvania.
(Photographer: Nate Smallwood/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

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According to FiveThirtyEight’s Senate Forecast, Republicans now have a 45% chance of gaining a majority in the Senate, with the publication calling the race a “dead heat” as of Sunday. The odds of a Republican majority have increased significantly over the last month, with FiveThrityEight’s forecast showing Democrats with a 71% chance of emerging with a majority as recently as September 19.