Curtis Stumps in the Flathead Valley

U.S. Senate candidate a departure from 'Blue Dog' Democrats

By Tristan Scott

Sporting a stud in her nose and still bearing the glow of youth, Amanda Curtis’ appeal isn’t lost on Montana Democrats even as pundits pan her 11th-hour campaign effort as hopeless.

Curtis, 34, is the Democratic nominee to replace U.S. Sen. John Walsh in the race against U.S. Rep. Steve Daines. If she wins, she would be the youngest U.S. senator in Washington, D.C.

Visiting the Flathead Valley last week, Curtis chatted amicably with supporters on her whirlwind campaign, which, in its first 10 days, has managed to squirrel away $180,000.

An attire of shorts and sandals was as common as neckties and skirts at the event in the downtown building, where more than 100 excited Democrats cracked open their checkbooks to support the nascent campaign and jostled for a minute of Curtis’ time.

Curtis, a Butte math teacher serving her first term in the Montana state house, has experienced a flood of support that is buoying her long-shot campaign, which is generating a level of enthusiasm that observers say is evidence of the energy that a candidate like Curtis can breathe into the “Blue Dog” Democratic party in Montana.

Curtis ran for an open Montana House seat in 2012, easily won the primary and was unchallenged in the general election. She wasn’t planning on running for re-election, however, because redistricting would have put her up against other Butte Democrats.

Speaking to the packed room at the KM Building on Aug. 27, Curtis quickly set herself apart from other politicians with salt-of-the-earth descriptions of her Montana childhood, when her parents divorced and her mother bought groceries on food stamps.

She viewed education as her golden opportunity, and she has made it a central point of her campaign.

“This election could decide who controls the Senate, and I don’t mean the difference between Republicans and Democrats,” Curtis said. “I mean the difference between the millionaires and the middle class.”

With $24,000 in student loan debt, Curtis supports lowering student loan interest rates, which is one of the focuses of her campaign stump speeches. As a teacher, she also has strong opinions about education, and says Common Core, the controversial national education standards opposed by many teachers’ unions, could be problematic if there’s a rush to implement it.

She’s been outspoken on a slate of other issues that many Montana Democrats running for national office won’t broach, including decrying overzealous supporters of gun-rights.

In the Legislature, after supporting a bill to remove language from Montana law that made sodomy a felony, she commended its passage through the House but,  in a daily YouTube video – Curtis is known for her regular use of social media to update constituents on the Legislature – she derided the 38 lawmakers who voted against it.

Curtis was selected by state Democrats at a special convention Aug. 16 as a replacement for Walsh, who bowed out of the race last month amid allegations he plagiarized a 2007 research paper for his master’s degree. She was selected the nominee over Dirk Adams and will now take on Daines and Libertarian Roger Roots.


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