Helena Mayor Wilmot Collins on Thursday became the fourth Democrat to file for Montana’s 2020 U.S. Senate race, saying it’s his way of repaying a state that changed his life.
But the former Liberian refugee said things have changed in America and Montana since he arrived 26 years ago – and not necessarily for the better.
Collins said when he arrived in the state in 1994, he walked into the governor’s office, without an appointment, and asked to meet the governor – and that then-Gov. Marc Racicot saw him and even had his staff help him find a job.
“Montana is the perfect gem of a place, where neighbors help neighbors,” he said. “(But) if we had the government that we have today, they may have escorted me out, with a police escort. …
“If we had Trump, Daines, Rosendale, Gianforte, I don’t know if I would have gone through what I did. I’m thankful that at the time, we had reasonable people who are able to go beyond party lines.”
Collins is seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, who’s running for a second term.
Three other Democrats also have filed to run – all of them largely unknown to the public: Bozeman physicist Michael Knoles, Loma rancher and engineer John Mues and Bozeman health-policy expert Cora Neumann.
At this point, Daines remains a prohibitive favorite to win re-election.
Collins, 57, had a 22-year career in the Montana National Guard and is on leave from his current job as a child-protective specialist for the state.
Collins didn’t mention his opponents Thursday in brief comments before he paid his $1,740 filing fee at the secretary of state’s office in the Capitol, and barely mentioned Daines.
He said he loves Montana and its people, and that filing to run to represent them in the U.S. Senate is the personification of the “American dream.”