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Montana Democrats choose little-known legislator as Senate candidate after Walsh drops out

Amanda Curtis speaks before the opening of the Montana Democratic Party's special nominating convention in Helena, Montana, Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014. Curtis, a legislator from Butte, is one of the candidates seeking the party's nomination to replace Sen. John Walsh in the Senate race against Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Daines. (AP Photo/Matt Volz)

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Amanda Curtis speaks before the opening of the Montana Democratic Party's special nominating convention in Helena, Montana, Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014. Curtis, a legislator from Butte, is one of the candidates seeking the party's nomination to replace Sen. John Walsh in the Senate race against Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Daines. (AP Photo/Matt Volz)

HELENA, Mont. - Montana Democrats selected a little-known state legislator as their candidate for the U.S. Senate race after Sen. John Walsh dropped out amid plagiarism allegations leaving a key seat vulnerable to a Republican challenge.

Amanda Curtis, 34, a first-term representative from Butte, now faces the challenge of introducing herself to Montana voters and making her case for them to choose her over well-funded Republican Rep. Steve Daines with less than three months until the Nov. 4 elections.

Republicans need a net gain of six seats in November to take Senate control, and Montana is a prime target to pick up a seat that's been in Democratic hands for more than a century.

The Senate race was seen as a tough one for Democrats to win even with Walsh in the running. Now Daines is expected to have a bigger advantage going up against a newcomer who doesn't have his name recognition or his $1.7 million campaign bank account.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock appointed Walsh, who was Bullock's lieutenant governor, in February when Max Baucus resigned the Senate after 35 years to become ambassador to China.

That gave Walsh the incumbency and a boost in fundraising, but his candidacy faltered when The New York Times published a story in July that showed Walsh used other scholars' work extensively in a research paper written in 2007.

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