Sep 6, 2022 - Politics

GOP Senate candidate scrubs website of 2020 election doubts

Tiffany Smiley, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Washington state

Tiffany Smiley, a former triage nurse challenging U.S. Sen. Patty Murray. Photo: Bill Clark/Getty Image

As the general election looms, Washington's Republican candidate for U.S. Senate has deleted a section of her website that previously questioned the integrity of the 2020 elections.

Why it matters: The move by Tiffany Smiley, a former triage nurse challenging U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, is the latest example of GOP candidates nationwide appearing to moderate hardline positions they took before the primary.

  • Elsewhere in the U.S., Republican congressional candidates have scrubbed their websites of anti-abortion rhetoric, in addition to reducing their focus on voter-fraud conspiracies and other far-right topics, Axios' Alexi McCammond and Andrew Solender write.

State of play: Before the Aug. 2 primary, Smiley's website stated: "The 2020 elections raised serious questions about the integrity of our elections," and, "I believe that courts have an obligation to give all evidence of voter fraud a fair hearing."

What they're saying: Smiley's campaign says the website change was part of a rollout of more detailed policy platforms post-primary — not a shift in Smiley's stance.

  • "Tiffany's position has always been that Joe Biden is our duly elected President," campaign spokesperson Elisa Carlson wrote in an email to Axios last Friday. "However, she acknowledges that there are many who have concerns surrounding the 2020 election."

Yes, but: In an interview with CNN's Dana Bash, Smiley declined to clearly state that Biden was "fairly" or "legitimately" elected, even after being asked three times.

  • Of note: Smiley, who became a veterans' advocate after her Army officer husband was injured in Iraq, also wants to see voter ID laws implemented across the country.
  • That's another position previously highlighted on her website that has since been removed.

The other side: Naomi Savin, spokesperson for Murray's campaign, said Smiley's position on election integrity "is way out of line with the truth and way out of line with Washington voters."

  • "Tiffany Smiley is yet another MAGA Republican who is scrambling to hide her extreme views after the primary," Savin wrote in a statement to Axios.

Zoom out: Smiley also has tried to walk a fine line on abortion, saying she opposes the practice, but doesn't support a federal ban — a message she delivered in a TV ad after the August primary.

  • Earlier in the campaign, Smiley said she agrees with the near-total abortion ban in Texas, The Hill reported. But on Sunday, she told Bash that she supports Washington's law that allows abortions through roughly 24 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Smiley's campaign said her position is consistent because she thinks abortion laws should be left up to the states.

The big picture: Todd Donovan, a professor of political science at Western Washington University, told Axios that Smiley faces a challenge of separating herself from Trump in a state that tilts blue.

  • "One way to try to do that is to back down from the election-denier stuff, or election integrity stuff," Donovan said.
  • However, Donovan said he doubts that Washington voters will distinguish between Smiley's support of Texas' strict abortion ban and her opposition to a federal ban.

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