Tiffany Smiley, running to represent Washington state in the U.S. Senate, is busy living the American dream. Born and raised on a small farm in central Washington, Mrs. Smiley grew up raising steers and hogs, participating in 4H, and playing sports. She got a scholarship to college, became a nurse and married her high school sweetheart — a champion wrestler in high school who went off to West Point and became an Army officer.
At that point, the story gets a little complicated. In April 2005, her husband, then stationed in Iraq, was wounded and lost his eyesight. Mrs. Smiley resigned from her nursing job and flew to Walter Reed Army Medical Center to meet her wounded and possibly dying husband.
She remembers: “That was the worst day of my life. I had power of attorney, to medically retire him [from the Army]. I refused … I wanted to know about his care, his treatment, his life, and that in the future he would have something to live for, something to work for so I refused … I took on the Army. Scotty went on and became the first blind active-duty officer to ever serve our country.
“We moved eight times in 10 years … all across this country with a blind husband and three toddlers.”
After helping her husband, Mrs. Smiley went on to help other wounded veterans. She worked on reforming the Department of Veterans Affairs. “I was very excited about the work that the Trump administration was able to accomplish and what they did for our veterans because it absolutely helped our family and thousands of others,” she said.
The progression from those fights to her current effort is natural. She has a clear sense of what remains at stake in the next election.
“It was in that fight that we realized that there’s so much more to be fighting for,” she said. “I’m the mom of three young boys in the public school system here in Washington state. And we’re certainly fighting for their future. [We] want to know that in 10, 20 years, our three boys have a country worth losing their eyesight for.
“It’s for our children’s future, to ensure that the American dream is alive and well for them.”
While Mrs. Smiley has been fighting for her family and for veterans, her opponent, Sen. Patty Murray, has been loitering in the Senate for 30 years.
Mrs. Smiley has a few thoughts about her opponent: “She has these powerful positions, but what does influence even mean if you’re not willing to exert it? It’s only helpful if you use it. … She’s been chair of the Senate Health Committee, which oversees the FDA. She didn’t do anything for the [baby] formula shortage. In fact, Washington was one of five states with a 90% out-of-stock rate. So where is that influence? Does that even matter?
“At the end of the day, the people of Washington state want someone who will deliver results. That means combating the out-of-control spending, ensuring that our children have competitive quality education, that we’re energy independent, and someone who will fight for our children’s lives and combating the fentanyl crisis.”
On Tuesday, voters in Washington will select two candidates to run against one another for the U.S. Senate seat. While Mrs. Smiley is expected to be one of those two, some are not sure that she, or anyone really, can win as a Republican in the state, a place where the last Republican to win a Senate seat was Slade Gorton in 1992.
For her part. Mrs. Smiley has no doubts. “Yes, I can win. Do you know why I can win? Because I remember the 23-year-old who walked into Walter Reed who had a 0% chance of keeping her husband on active duty as the first blind active-duty service member.
“I have been campaigning full time for 16 months and the energy on the ground is real. And I think that’s evidenced by the amount of money that I’ve been able to raise” — about $7 million so far.
“The people … they’re worried about gas prices. They’re worried about inflation. They’re worried about being able to feed their babies or get the food they need. You walk through the grocery stores, empty shelves, and there’s no solution in sight. There’s no hope. Ms. Murray offers no hope to Washington families.”
“The question we should be asking is why [is Ms. Murray] running again after 30 years?”
Mrs. Smiley may seem like an underdog. The reality of it is, however, that this campaign may be among the least challenging things she will have faced and overcome in her life.
Lots of people in politics tell you that they are fighters. Mrs. Smiley doesn’t talk about being a fighter. She doesn’t have to — every day for the last 17 years of her life she has been fighter.
“We’re fighting for the right reasons. And quite frankly, our family will never stop fighting for this country.”
• Michael McKenna, a columnist for The Washington Times, was most recently a deputy assistant to the president and deputy director of the Office of Legislative Affairs at the White House. He is a co-host of The Unregulated podcast.