Replacement MT Senate candidate will take on 1% opponent

Montana-State-Rep-Amanda-CurtisAfter U.S. Sen. John Walsh dropped out due to serious plagiarism, Montana Democrats have selected their new candidate for U.S. Senate this year — a young, progressive, first-term state representative, Amanda Curtis. Placed in a tough spot, the state party has picked an exciting candidate that breaks the mold and gives voters a true choice (and a reason to pay attention to the election).

Here’s some information from the Christian Science Monitor article on her selection by the state convention:

Curtis, 34, is a high school math teacher. She emerged as the front-runner earlier in the week after she received the endorsement of Montana’s largest unions and high-profile party leaders said they weren’t interested in running.

On Saturday, she appealed to working-class voters and portrayed [Republican U.S. Rep.] Daines as being in the camp of corporations and the wealthy. She said her Senate campaign would focus on issues that include campaign finance reform, tax reform and funding for schools and infrastructure that would create jobs.

“This is the worst job market in a generation, but the stock market is doing just fine. Wall Street is doing great,” Curtis said. “This recovery has not reached the rest of us.”

I know we still don’t really have a shot at holding on to this Senate seat. This was losing race even before the fiasco with Walsh, the appointed Senator. After all, State Rep. Curtis isn’t all that well known to voters, as a freshman member of a 100-member state House of Representatives (I think each district has only about 10,000 people in it, though she’s representing part of the City of Butte), even if she has been more vocal than most. (She was noted for some great speeches and a lot of YouTube videos on legislative activity, in 2013.)

Regardless, this is a pretty awesome choice for a replacement, in my opinion, and there’s nothing to lose at this point. If there’s any moment to go all in and just see how far a genuinely progressive message can go, this is it. She’s a teacher with a record of proudly supporting women’s rights, gay rights, and sensible gun control.

Huffington Post, 4/9/13:

Thirty-eight legislators in the Montana state House voted on Monday to keep sex between gay people illegal, a fact that elicited a stinging rebuke from state Rep. Amanda Curtis (D-Butte) in a video posted to YouTube.

“The good news,” according to Curtis, is that that the bill — designed to repeal a law that targets gay individuals — will move forward in the state House after a 60-38 vote. “[The] bad news is that there are 38 people in the House of Representatives who think that’s how their district wants them to vote … or [they] are not listening to their district and believe so strongly that gays should be felons that they have a moral obligation to keep it that way.”

Billings Gazette, 7/23/13:

State Rep. Amanda Curtis, D-Butte, told how at age 17, in May 1997, she and her family were awakened by a call from the police in the middle of the night telling them to come to a Billings hospital. They learned her 16-year-old brother had shot and killed himself playing Russian roulette at a party.

She also spoke about a 10-year-old boy in Butte who was killed by another student in 1994, and how a close family friend was killed after being shot in the face.

“These are not extraordinary circumstances,” Curtis said. “I would be willing to bet that every single one of you that’s here today either has been directly affected or knows someone who has been directly affected by gun violence.”

Curtis […] called for common-sense solutions.

“If Montana has 2.5 times the suicide rate of states with comprehensive background checks, maybe we should try that out,” said Curtis, a high school math teacher.

I’m also glad that she’s going to run an aggressively populist campaign. Montana Democrats would be well served, I think, by pushing progressive/populist reform candidates, statewide, more often. It’s a long tradition in Montana, but sometimes it’s not as strong as it could be. She’s saying the right stuff out there already. Here’s today’s report from the Billings Gazette:

She framed her campaign as one that will champion the interests of the working class against those of the wealthy and of corporations, and she put her Republican opponent, Rep. Steve Daines, squarely on the side of the latter.

“This is the fundamental difference between Steve Daines and me,” Curtis said. “He seems like a nice guy with a wonderful family, but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t understand what life is like for the rest of us.”

Financial disclosure forms filed last month show Daines has personal assets worth between $8.9 million and $32.7 million. He was an executive with Bozeman-based RightNow Technologies from 2000 to 2012 before resigning to run for his U.S. House seat.
Curtis dismissed notions that the race was unwinnable, telling The Associated Press that she is “in it to win it” and she plans to get her message out by crisscrossing the state from now until the election to woo independents.

“They’re fed up with politics as usual. They feel like they don’t have a place and their voice is not heard. And I represent something different for them,” she said.

Curtis plans to gain ground on Daines by forcing him to express his views to those people in debates, she said.

“If we can get him on the record on the issues of importance to Montanans, it will all be over,” she said.

Curtis was elected in 2012 and was not seeking re-election this year. Ahead of Saturday’s party convention, Curtis gained endorsements from teachers unions and the Montana Sportsmen Alliance. She has voiced support for labor unions and women’s rights.

It’s so refreshing to see someone unapologetically trying, for a change.

Bill Humphrey

About Bill Humphrey

Bill Humphrey is the primary host of WVUD's Arsenal For Democracy talk radio show and a local elected official.
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