Amanda Curtis will be running for Senate in Montana as a Sen. Elizabeth Warren-style, progressive Democrat who says the race is not about Democrats versus Republicans.
Curtis believes the race that could help decide which party controls the Senate is about “millionaires versus the middle class.”
“This is the fundamental difference between Steve Daines and me. He seems like a nice guy with a wonderful family but I am pretty sure he doesn’t understand what life is like for most of us,” Curtis said in her nomination acceptance speech.
“America is breaking its promises,” Curtis said. “The cost of college is going through the roof. You can’t work your way through college these days so you take out loans, more every year, and the interest rates are going up and up and up.”
Montana Democrats chose Curtis to replace Sen. John Walsh (D-Mont.) in the race against Rep. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) after failing to convince former Gov. Brian Schweitzer or actor Jeff Bridges to run for Senate. Bridges told Sirius XM shock jock Howard Stern his wife wouldn’t let him run. Schweitzer posted a Facebook message that said pretty much the same thing, noting that he had better things to do.
Walsh dropped out of the race Aug. 7 because of a plagiarism scandal involving his U.S. Army War College master’s thesis.
Schweitzer endorsed Curtis after her nomination and promised to campaign for her. But some of his Facebook followers were less than enthusiastic.
One wrote: “I like you Gov Brian Schweitzer…but Amanda Curtis is a leftist nutjob. Her attacks on the Bible and the family are inexcusable. Any good Democrat would know that her San Francisco values do not play in Montana. I will not be voting for her.”
Another of Schweitzer’s Facebook followers wrote the most important question of the campaign: “Who is Amanda Curtis?”
Democrats don’t have a “big name” with star power.
But they do have a union-card-carrying high school math teacher who loves to hunt, fish, ride ATVs, dirt bikes and mountain bikes – everything expected of a woman who lives in Big Sky Country.
Curtis picked up the endorsement of the Montana AFL-CIO two days before the special nominating convention.
Al Ekblad, executive secretary for the state chapter, said its board unanimously endorsed the 34-year-old Curtis because she is a union member and can attract female and young voters.
“I’m going to be telling people this candidate appeals to young voters, she appeals to women, she’s charismatic,” he said. “And she carries a union card.”
Curtis also has some political experience after serving nearly a full term in the Montana State Legislature.
But that’s about it.
Amanda Curtis has no money, at least nothing like the millions of dollars in donations and “cash on hand” that her opponent Daines has in the bank according to his campaign’s most recent FEC filings.
Curtis paid her election filing fee out of her pocket to state officials after winning the nomination, then had to make plans to ask her school board for a leave of absence so she could campaign for the Senate.
Daines, on the other hand, held a double-digit lead in most polls before Walsh dropped out of the race.
Daines also has a campaign organization that has been on the ground in Montana for months.
He has the advantage of being Montana’s only congressman, so name recognition has never been a problem.
Perhaps, above all, Daines has money.
By June 30, the end of the second quarter of 2014, he had received more than $4.3 million in contributions and had more than $1.7 million in cash on hand.
Montana Republicans would like to help Curtis with her name recognition problem. They quickly released a video after she won the nomination entitled “Meet Amanda Curtis.”
It is a montage of videos that she recorded in which Curtis sarcastically tells the story of leaving a gun rights debate and walking through a dark parking lot. “And I didn’t have a gun with me. I’m glad I made it.”
In another clip she ridicules a speaker who talked about “biblical this and biblical that and fundamental Christianity.”
In yet another clip Curtis says, “Frankenstein wound up with an abnormal brain and that is what I think you would have to have to vote against Medicaid expansion,” and then holds up an earring she is wearing with a picture of Frankenstein on it and warns, “this is what Montanans might end up looking like if we don’t give them healthcare.”
Republicans might be thinking they don’t have to pay much attention to Montana now that Walsh is out of the race. They might be thinking they can concentrate on the other swing states to win control of the Senate.
Curtis told her fellow Democrats after winning the nomination if the GOP is thinking that way, the GOP is thinking wrong.
She asked Democrats to take a “leap of faith” with her and promised to spend the next three months traveling across Montana “because there is a hunger for leaders who will actually listen for a change.”
“The national media and the political class have already decided that this race is over,” Curtis said. “But none of those folks get to vote in the state of Montana.”