Republican Tiffany Smiley concedes in Senate race against Murray in WA

Republican Tiffany Smiley speaks to supporters at the Hyatt Regency Bellevue in Bellevue on Tuesday. Smiley has conceded in the U.S. Senate race to Patty Murray. (Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times)

Tiffany Smiley conceded to Sen. Patty Murray in their race for U.S. Senate late Wednesday, bowing to the blunt mathematical reality, a day after vowing to continue to fight.

Smiley, a Pasco Republican, trailed the longtime incumbent Democrat by about 13 percentage points after Wednesday night's counts. That translates to a Murray lead of more than 265,000 votes.

The secretary of state's office estimates there are about 750,000 ballots left to count, statewide.

The Seattle Times and other news organizations called the race for Murray on Tuesday night.

“This evening I reached out to Senator Murray and her campaign to congratulate her on her victory after a hard-fought race," Smiley wrote in an email late Wednesday. "I cannot thank my family, my team and the wonderful people of Washington state enough for their support over the past 18 months. This race was never about me — it was about the amazing people of this state and I will never stop fighting and advocating for them.”

Reflecting the testy nature of the campaign — Smiley repeatedly attacked Murray for her long tenure in office, while Murray framed Republican control of Congress as a threat to democracy — the two candidates didn't actually speak in the concession phone call.

Smiley called Murray's campaign manager late Wednesday, who offered to connect her with Murray in the morning, Murray's campaign said. Smiley conceded to the campaign manager instead.

"It is the honor of my life to serve the people of Washington state in the U.S. Senate," Murray wrote on Twitter on Wednesday. "Thank you. I’ll keep fighting with all I've got for our state — to lower costs for families, to finally fix our child care crisis, to protect the right to abortion, and so much more."

Polls before the election, particularly those funded by Republican outfits, had showed a close race. And it was the most expensive congressional race in Washington history, with the airwaves saturated with attack ads, from both candidates and outside groups, in the last few weeks.

But ultimately it wasn't close. Murray dominated in vote-rich King County, providing a more-than substantial buffer to offset Republican votes east of the Cascades.

While Murray led in almost every Puget Sound County, her lead was almost entirely attributable to her King County margin. She led King County by more than 238,000 votes, which made up nearly 90% of her statewide lead.

Murray campaigned on abortion rights, affordable health care and protecting democratic norms. Smiley campaigned as a new choice for voters frustrated with a 30-year incumbent, stressing issues of inflation and crime.

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