In stunning Trump rebuke, Montana elects Liberian refugee as state's first black mayor


As Trump tries to gin up fear and hate surrounding refugees arriving in the U.S., Helena elects a Liberian refugee as Montana's first black mayor.

It was an election night filled with bad news for Donald Trump, and the losses came in all shapes and sizes. Not only did the Republican Party lose high-profile governor races in bellwether states that the GOP used to win, such as Virginia and New Jersey, but all sorts of smaller defeats piled up from coast to coast.

One of the more poignant came in the deeply red state of Montana, where Wilmot Collins, a black refugee from Liberia, was elected mayor of the state's capitol of Helena. Collins ran as a progressive, and the local victory represented a stinging rebuke to Trump’s hateful anti-immigrant and anti-refugee message of fear that he’s been desperately trying to fan this year.

Collins, a progressive who unseated a 16-year incumbent, also became the first black mayor in Montana history. Twelve months ago, Trump easily won Lewis and Clark County, the home of Helena, while sweeping the state by 21 points against Hillary Clinton.

Collins arrived in Helena 23 years ago as a refugee from Liberia, fleeing a civil war. He and his wife fled the country, “starving, dehydrated and sick.”

Since arriving in America, the 54-year-old Naval reservist became a child protection specialist with the Montana Department of Health and Human Services. He and his wife have a daughter in the Navy and a son at the University of Montana.

"Coming here provided me a second chance. A second chance at life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That second chance provided me family," Collins said earlier this year, after Trump moved to curtail refugees from entering the United States. "There isn't any evidence of refugees in the United States of America actually committing terrorism acts. When we label refugees as that we are lying to the world. We are lying to the public."

The United States has long been seen as a coveted destination for refugees from around the world seeking to start new lives free from political and economic violence. But in recent days and weeks, Trump has moved to gin up his hate campaign against refugees and immigrants.

Following the terror attack in New York City last week, Trump lashed out on Twitter suggesting that Democrats were allowing terrorists into the country under the umbrella of immigration programs.

Meanwhile, Trump’s chief of staff John Kelly has reportedly urged the president to adopt a long-term policy of allowing zero refugees into the United States.

In Montana, that message of hate doesn’t seem to be resonating. “The country is still not what Mr. Trump wants it to be,” Collins told HuffPost.