- Associated Press - Sunday, October 12, 2014

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - Amanda Curtis has a thin political record from one state legislative session to scrutinize, but her prolific use of social media gives more insight into a U.S. Senate candidate than most campaigns that spend millions of dollars on well-crafted messages.

Curtis, a Democrat, joined the race for U.S. Senate in August after Sen. John Walsh withdrew amid plagiarism allegations. As she crisscrosses the state to meet as many voters as possible in an abbreviated campaign, 87 videos on YouTube, one for each day of the 2013 session, show her in candid moments. This strategy of putting herself out there easily sets her apart.

It’s also the one thing her opponent is employing against her, as Republicans use her outspokenness to paint her as someone who’s too extreme for Montana.

Curtis, a teacher of math at Butte High School, said she made the videos because she wanted be transparent and educate. In addition to giving a rundown on the legislature’s activities, Curtis, 35, doles out frank commentary in the videos.

“Thanks old men for deciding what’s good for us,” she said, for example, while talking about an abortion bill requiring teenagers to get parental consent before having the procedure. In another video she refers to herself as “an anarchist at heart” and said she’d be glad when the legislative session ends.

Montana Republicans have seized on the videos, creating their own compilation of culled Curtis quotes. They released it immediately after she was selected as a candidate, and the video has been viewed more than 150,000 times, said Bowen Greenwood, executive director of Montana Republican Party.

“Everyone’s astounded by how popular it is,” he said. “We do think she’s too extreme for Montana. These are things she has said, and what better material for Montanans to make up their mind on.”

Curtis said her comments make sense in the context of the videos. She not only encourages people to watch them, they are prominently displayed on her candidate website in the “About Amanda” section.

“If you go back and look at the ‘anarchist’ video, I was actually agreeing with Montana sentiment that there are some places that government can be smaller,” she said.

The Montana Republican Party also describes as extreme Curtis’ views on gun issues and her affiliation with a union called the Industrial Workers of the World.

Curtis - whose brother died at age 16 after accidentally shooting himself while playing Russian roulette - consistently says she’s a supporter of the Second Amendment, owns guns and simply wants the same background checks for gun shows that exist for people making purchases in gun shops.

In spite of those statements, the National Rifle Association recently gave her an F rating, the organization’s worst. Curtis is the first-ever Montana candidate for U.S. Senate to receive the grade.

Curtis said she wants to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and said quotes attributed to her in a recent NRA mailer used words she never said. “It’s another example of trying to make me out to be something I’m not,” she said.

Curtis is a staunch supporter of workers and laborers. Her father is a retired laborer, and Curtis has said that while growing up she relied on her father’s union insurance for health care. She sponsored two bills during the 2013 session that she said would have helped workers. One would have given preferential treatment to hiring Montanans for certain jobs and another would have given a cost-of-living adjustment to volunteer firefighters.

Just how deeply Curtis is invested as a union supporter has been called out by Republicans who liken the union to which she has ties to a group of communists. Curtis has ties to the International Workers of the World, a union that, according to its website, believes “the working class and the employing class have nothing in common. There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among millions of the working people and the few, who make up the employing class, have all the good things of life.”

The union stresses on its website that it doesn’t ally itself with any political party.

Curtis’ husband, Kevin Curtis, is one of the union’s organizers in Butte.

While she told The Associated Press that she is not a member, two articles Curtis wrote appeared in a 2008 newsletter from the union. One article features the union fighting to hold a labor-information booth at a Butte festival. The other describes efforts to restore the grave of Frank Little, an International Workers of the World organizer who was reportedly lynched in 1917 after coming to Butte.

Curtis said those articles were written for local newspapers and then picked up by the union. “I advocate for a kinder capitalism, things like workplace safety, a living wage and equal pay for equal work - and Montanans agree with me on these issues,” she said.

Curtis said she’s not deterred by the GOP’s efforts to paint her as an extremist.

“Montanans asked me to step up and asked about this nomination because they knew who I was through transparent governing,” she said.

Curtis’ opponent, U.S. Rep. Stephen Daines, was portrayed by Walsh before he left the race as adhering to a “cruel and cowardly” tea-party ideology that led him to vote to shut down the federal government last year. Daines has said he is no tea-party ideologue, but a pragmatic leader applying his “more jobs, less government” philosophy.

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