Amanda Curtis launches Montana Senate campaign after Walsh bows out

Amanda Curtis is banking on turning her inexperience and working-class identity into assets in her unlikely race for U.S. Senate in Montana.
By Gabrielle Levy  |  Aug. 21, 2014 at 8:24 AM
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WASHINGTON, Aug. 21 (UPI) -- For Amanda Curtis, inexperience is a good thing.

With less than 11 weeks to go before election day, Curtis, a high school math teacher and single-term state legislator from Montana, is kicking off her campaign as the newest candidate for U.S. Senate.

Curtis was selected by the Montana Democratic Party Sunday to replace Sen. John Walsh, who dropped his bid for a full term after allegations he plagiarized his master's thesis at the Army War College.

With a short time frame and just $2,000 left from Walsh's campaign, Curtis, 34, is hoping to make a splash in a race that looked like a sure loss for Democrats, even before Walsh was beset by scandal.

A new poll from Rasmussen Wednesday showed Curtis down from Republican Steve Daines by 20 points, but Curtis insists she's not just filling in a blank on the ballot.

"I'm not a sacrificial lamb," Curtis told reporters this week. "I'm going to win and I'm going to come out swinging for the fences and I believe this is a winnable campaign."

On Wednesday evening, she named Clayton Elliott, the director of the League of Rural Voters as her campaign manager, and boasted raising more than $110,000 in just four days.

Sacrificial lamb or not, Curtis is going boldly liberal in a red state that voted for Mitt Romney over President Obama by nearly 14 points in 2012.

She's loudly pro-background checks for guns -- her brother killed himself playing Russian roulette when he was 16 -- and last summer attended a rally urging then-Sen. Max Baucus to support federal legislation to expand them.

"I haven't said anything that average Montanans wouldn't agree with," she told the Montana Standard. I have simply stated that guns shouldn't be in the hands of the mentally ill and criminals. That's not too much to ask for, and that's not a radical position."

She's unabashed in her support of labor unions, public education and the "working class," and has been deeply critical of the state's Republican-controlled legislature for blocking expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

Curtis is also eager to draw comparisons between herself and Daines, a millionaire whose financial disclosure forms filed last month show he has personal assets worth between $8.9 million and $32.7 million.

"We all need to remember that Washington, D.C., is full of folks that have done incredibly well for themselves and when you send folks to Washington, D.C., who have done incredibly well for themselves, they take votes that tilt the playing field to the wealthy and against us regular working folks," she said.

Should Curtis pull off the unlikely, she'll be a standout in more ways than one. At 34, Curtis would be the youngest senator by more than six years. And she would be Montana's first female senator -- and just the second woman the state has sent to Washington, ever.

Facing a loss of the seat for the first time in a century, Democrats are banking that a fresh face -- and a fresh infusion of enthusiasm into the campaign -- might just help them pull out a victory.

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