U.S. Sen. Jon Tester is famous for his flat-top and middle of the road politics. Amanda Curtis, Tester's fellow Democrat and would-be colleague from Montana, is known for her nose ring and her unabashedly liberal affiliations.
Although many insiders dismiss her campaign as a long shot, Amanda Curtis is raising money at a prodigious rate and battling assertions that she is too radical for conservative-leaning Montana.
But on many issues, the candidate admits she needs to study up. But time is running out with Election Day a little more than two months away.
Curtis, a Butte math teacher serving her first-term in the Montana state house, has already raised $180,000 in 10 days, according to her campaign, and sees "people coming out of the woodwork" to support her.
According to Curtis, who spoke with CNN last week, her nomination as the Democratic Senate candidate "came from incredible circumstance."
Curtis added that she had not even planned to seek re-election to her seat in the state legislature, let alone run for the U.S. Senate.
An untested candidate
But that "incredible circumstance" comes with a price for Curtis and the Democrats who thrust an untested candidate into the national spotlight overnight.
When asked her position on the situation in Iraq, Curtis told CNN, "Give me a little more time." On the border crisis, "I'll need more time, you know only 11 days ago I was painting my storm windows."
One area the teacher had a firm answer was Common Core, the controversial national education standards opposed by teachers' unions but supported by the Obama administration.
Curtis said, "I am excited by Common Core, as a teacher ... but there has been a rush to implement it and that's the problem."
Montana State University professor David Parker concedes that "she's clearly rough. ... It's going to take time to get her answers down to sound bite quality."
Not going to back down
But Robyn Driscoll, a Democratic Montana state senator, finds the lack of polish "a refreshing change from the usual spin. ... Her approach tells voters she is not going to back down."
Her priorities: access to public lands, opposition to Rep. Paul Ryan's House GOP budget, and "economic policies for the 100%, not the 1%."
Curtis, 34, has already garnered the support of the state's unions, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean's Democracy for America and Tester, the state's two-term Democratic senator.
"As Montana's senior senator, I'll be supporting Amanda as well as all Democrats who are talking about the issues that are important to Montana," Tester told CNN. "Amanda's energy and enthusiasm will be a refreshing change and will bring attention to issues facing working families like education and access to our public lands."
Tester helping out
Tester's spokeswoman Marnee Banks confirmed that he has been helping Curtis fundraise and plans to continue to make calls on her behalf.
When Tester's counterpart, Max Baucus, left the Senate this year for the U.S. ambassador's post in Beijing, Montana Democrats were in a pickle. They needed a replacement.
They chose John Walsh, a decorated veteran, the head of the state's National Guard and its lieutenant governor, to keep the seat blue.
It was already an uphill battle in the Big Sky state against popular freshman U.S. Rep. Steve Daines, the Republican nominee.
Then the plagiarism charges hit after a New York Times story detailed how Walsh lifted large parts of his master's thesis from others' work. Walsh dropped his campaign within two weeks, vowing to stay in the Senate.
Little time to vet candidate
Rushing to fill the seat, they chose Curtis at a nominating convention with little time to vet her for the job.