- Associated Press - Sunday, November 2, 2014

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - U.S. Senate candidate Amanda Curtis hasn’t had much time to introduce herself to Montana voters since becoming the Democratic nominee in August, but she’s getting a boost from the party’s biggest names in the final days before Tuesday’s election.

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester and Gov. Steve Bullock joined Curtis and Democratic U.S. House candidate John Lewis on a tour of the state that hit 17 towns and cities starting Thursday and ending Sunday. On Saturday, they started their day in Helena at a rally attended by about 75 people.

“We can’t have Jon Tester alone in D.C.,” Bullock told the crowd of Democratic Party faithful. “We need John Lewis. We need Amanda Curtis.”

Until now, the party leaders have played a background role, mainly appearing at a couple of fundraisers and sending out emails to raise money for Curtis.

Tester called Curtis energetic and a breath of fresh air, but said that her candidacy has to stand on its own.

“That’s Montana - you go out and run your own race,” Tester said. “My role is to empower the grassroots to move the party forward.”

Having Tester and Bullock along in the final days, however, lends star power to Curtis’ quest to rise from political unknown to legitimate contender against Republican U.S. Rep Steve Daines.

“Having them along for the final few days is going to be a huge help,” Curtis spokesman Les Braswell said on Thursday. “They are the leaders of the Montana Democratic Party and having them along helps generate turnout, and that’s especially important going into the final weekend.”

The barnstorming tour began with the candidates and party leaders racing along the Hi-Line to Indian reservations and communities for hour-long rallies before packing up and heading to the next point. The group swung down to south-central Montana before it was scheduled to wrap up in a final blitz on Sunday from Kalispell to Butte.

Curtis is widely seen as an underdog in the race against Daines. The Bozeman Republican’s own schedule was packed in the last week before the election, traveling to rallies from Culbertson to Libby before swinging down western Montana to end up in Hamilton.

Curtis replaced U.S. Sen. John Walsh, who dropped out of the race when it was revealed that he plagiarized portions of a term paper he wrote for a master’s degree from the U.S. Army War College.

The 35-year-old math teacher and one-term state legislator had to start a campaign from scratch and start raising money less than three months before Election Day. By mid-October, Curtis had raised more than $723,000, her television ads were playing across the state and she was logging many miles to far-off communities to meet voters and tell them what she’s about.

She’s had to play catch-up against an opponent who has spent a year campaigning and raised more than $6.3 million by Oct. 15.

Lewis is campaigning against Republican Ryan Zinke for the open U.S. House seat that Daines is leaving after one term.

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