HELENA — In the run-up to Saturday’s Democratic Party convention that will choose a U.S. Senate candidate to replace Sen. John Walsh, supporters of Rep. Amanda Curtis have been bashing her main opponent, Wilsall rancher Dirk Adams.
Emails from union leader Eric Feaver and postings on social media and Democratic blogs are castigating Adams for not paying part of his property taxes this year, opposing a minimum-wage increase and registering his ranch corporation in Delaware, and accusing him of working for banks that caused the 2008 financial meltdown.
Some convention delegates supporting Adams also say they’ve been getting pressured by Curtis supporters to change their vote Saturday.
“I just can’t believe it’s gotten this nasty,” said Carl Donovan, a delegate from Great Falls who is supporting Adams. “I don’t think we need all these people pressuring people.”
Meanwhile, both Adams and Curtis, a high school teacher from Butte, said Friday it could be a close vote at Saturday’s convention, depending on which delegates show up.
“The numbers show that it’s pretty neck-and-neck between Dirk Adams and I,” Curtis said.
As of Thursday night, 129 eligible delegates had registered online for the convention, which opens at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Lewis and Clark County Fairgrounds in Helena. Additional delegates can show up and register before the convention begins.
Delegates, which include state and local Democratic Party officials, will choose which candidate replaces Walsh on the Nov. 4 ballot for U.S. Senate. Walsh withdrew as a candidate Aug. 7, in the wake of revelations that he plagiarized his master’s degree final paper at the U.S. Army War College in 2007.
The winner of Saturday’s nominating convention will take on Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Daines and Libertarian Roger Roots for Montana’s open U.S. Senate seat.
Daines, who’s been campaigning for the Senate seat since last fall, enters the campaign stretch as the prohibitive favorite. Most polls in recent weeks and months showed Daines with a double-digit lead over Walsh.
Adams and Curtis have refrained from criticizing one another, saying they respect each other and will support whoever wins on Saturday.
Curtis supporters, however, have been going after Adams, saying he’s “just another millionaire” who won’t be a good contrast to the wealthy Daines.
“We probably ought to know some things about Dirk Adams,” said Feaver, president of MEA-MFT, the state’s largest labor union and a supporter of Curtis. “To me, he’s a millionaire just like other millionaires, and he doesn’t look like Montana looks. Somebody had to say that in the time that we have here.”
Adams said this week that some of the accusations are true — his ranch corporation is registered in Delaware and he is two months late on paying about $2,900 in property taxes. He said he’d been busy running for the Senate in late May and June when the taxes were due, and hadn’t paid them. Adams finished third in a three-way Democratic primary against Walsh and John Bohlinger.
“I’ll get to it, and if anyone is anxious about it, by (Saturday morning), they’ll all be paid,” he said.
Yet Adams said some of the charges are misleading or false. He did work for some California banks that got into financial trouble during the 2008 crisis, but had left them years before, and he said he has supported increasing the minimum wage as a Band-Aid, but that wage disparity may need other solutions.
Jim Elliott, a former Democratic Party state chair who is supporting Adams, said this week that the battle between Curtis and Adams is between the “party establishment and the grass-roots,” which are leaning toward Adams.
“We’re replacing a candidate (Walsh) who was chosen by the party establishment,” Elliott said. “Why would we trust the party establishment to choose the next candidate?”