MONTANA CITY — Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Daines of Montana said Tuesday the Democrats' recent switch in Senate candidates won't change how he campaigns for the seat in the Nov. 4 election.
While on a tour of the Ash Grove cement plant in Montana City, Daines addressed state Rep. Amanda Curtis' candidacy for the first time since she was selected Saturday to replace Sen. John Walsh, who dropped out of the race earlier this month.
"It hasn't changed what we're doing," Daines said. "We're staying focused. I've got a job to do right now serving in Congress. I've got a long to-do list and I'm going to keep working on that list."
Daines emphasized that he would fight for union jobs, appearing to be make a pitch for the organized labor vote after the state's largest unions endorsed Curtis, a high school teacher who lives in Butte and whose family has deep labor ties.
Daines is in the middle of a statewide tour this week meeting with businesses and industry groups. He met with timber and wood-products industry representatives in Missoula on Monday before sitting down to hear the concerns of cement plant workers on Tuesday.
Curtis, who was traveling to Helena from eastern Montana, scoffed at Daines' appeal to laborers.
"Wouldn't it be fabulous if he for once would fight for union jobs?" she said. "He's fighting for his own agenda and corporate special interests. He's out of touch with the way working families live day to day."
Curtis' late entry into the race and her status as a relative unknown put her at a disadvantage against Daines, who last reported having $1.7 million to spend and who has wide recognition after two previous statewide campaigns.
Curtis said she has raised about $80,000 since being selected and has just hired a campaign manager, though she declined to name him before he is cleared from his regular job.
Curtis, 34, said Daines ignores her campaign at his peril.
"This will not be the first time Congressman Daines has ignored a young person with student loan debt, and I don't need his attention. I will be traveling, meeting people face to face, talking about issues important to working Montanans," she said.
Daines plans to meet with business owners, energy industry representatives and union representatives in Bozeman, Billings and Butte after this week.
Curtis planned to be in Helena on Wednesday before making appearances in Colstrip, Billings and Miles City.