Pro-Refugee Mayor of Rutland, VT Humiliated in Stunning Re-Election Bid Defeat

In this Nov. 14, 2016 photo, Mayor Chris Louras poses outside an exhibit featuring Syrian art in downtown Rutland, Vt. After months of bitter debate, the down-on-its heels city is preparing to start accepting up to 100 Syrian refugees. Louras, the main proponent of bringing the refugees to his community, …
AP/Elise Amendola

“Five-term incumbent Mayor Chris Louras of Rutland, Vermont was defeated this Town Meeting Day. He lost to Alderman Dave Allaire by a margin of 52 percent to 34 percent. Allaire swept all four wards,” WCAX reported Tuesday night.

“Louras had beaten Allaire in two previous mayoral elections,” Seven Days Vermont reported.

It was not even close on Tuesday, as Louras (pictured) was crushed in a humiliating defeat that was as much a rejection of his personal character as it was of his pro-refugee policies.

Louras made headlines last year when it was reported that, beginning in 2015,  he secretively attempted to resettle 100 Syrian refugees in the small Vermont city he has served as mayor since 2007.

“Mayor Christopher Louras has unveiled a plan, developed in near-secrecy, to resettle 100 Syrian refugees who fled the onslaught of the Islamic State and are exiled in sprawling Jordanian camps,” the Boston Globe reported in May.

“If approved by the State Department and others, the resettlement would begin in October and gradually send Rutland more Syrian refugees than are currently living anywhere else in New England. . . The influx would be a jolt of instant cultural diversity for Rutland, where there are no mosques and no other Syrian immigrants,” the Globe noted.

“Prior to announcing the resettlement of Syrian refugees, Rutland Mayor Louras held secret meetings with representatives of the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program, the State Department, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants and Gov. Peter Shumlin,” Bruce Parker reported at Vermont Watchdog in July 2016, two months after Louras sprang the announcement on an unsuspecting community.

The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) is one of the largest and most powerful voluntary agencies (VOLAGs) who, as a group, have been paid more than $1 billion annually by the federal government to resettle refugees in the United States.

“The mayor pitched the plan, without consulting the Board of Aldermen, as a humanitarian imperative and economic development initiative,” Seven Days Vermont reported, adding:

After months of conflict, Louras in September appeared to have scored a legacy-defining victory when the U.S. State Department announced that Rutland had been approved as a resettlement site and would begin accepting refugees. But President Donald Trump’s executive orders cracking down on immigration from Syria and other Muslim countries scuttled the plan. Only two Syrian families made it to Rutland.

The defeat of Louras was a stinging rebuke to the pro-refugee movement in a state where Hillary Clinton defeated Donald Trump by a 61 percent to 32 percent margin.

Louras blamed his loss on his support of refugees, and blamed the “emotions” of voters who rejected him rather than his own actions.

“Though I wanted to think this was not a referendum on refugee resettlement, I continue to believe, as I’ve articulated, Rutland is a microcosm of the national conversation on immigration and refugees, and ultimately it was not an election on the issues but an election based on emotions,” Louras told the Associated Press.

The victorious Allaire focused immediately on the need to rebuild confidence in the local government.

“One of the first things I want to do is restore the trust in City Hall . . .That’s what I’m going to do,” the Associated Press reported he said at an election night victory party.

The problems that ended Louras’s ten year administration as mayor were largely self-inflicted.

While Vermont is generally a refugee-welcoming state, the idea of dumping 100 Syrian refugees into this small city in Vermont that is already struggling economically seemed to defy common sense and logic, even to an area that preferred Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump.

Even more damaging to Louras, however, was the secretive and authoritarian manner in which he went about pursuing his objective of bringing 100 Syrian refugees to Rutland.

The liberal Vermont of 2017 is nothing like the rock-ribbed conservative Vermont of the 1950s, but the majority of Vermonters living in Rutland still know the abuse of governmental authority when they see it.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.