From Miramar Mayor To POTUS: Wayne Messam Plans ‘Historic Presidential Announcement’

Written by Dana Sanchez
Wayne Messam
Dignitaries cut a ribbon to mark the dedication of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s new $194 million South Florida field office, Friday, April 10, 2015, in Miramar, Fla. The office is named for agents Benjamin P. Grogan and Jerry L. Dove, who were killed in an April 11, 1986, shootout with heavily armed bank robbers south of Miami. Five other FBI agents were wounded in what remains the bureau’s bloodiest single day. Three survivors attended Friday’s ceremony. From left, FBI Director James Comey, U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, acting GSA Administrator Denise Roth, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Miramar, Fla. Mayor Wayne Messam, and George Piro, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, Pool)

It’s getting real. Democrat and Miramar, Florida Mayor Wayne Messam, 44, plans to announce on Saturday whether he has decided to run for president of the U.S., according to an email invite sent out last weekend.

Considering the venue for the announcement — the Lou Rawls Center for the Performing Arts at Florida Memorial University, Miami Gardens — it sounds like he’s made up his mind.

Less than two weeks ago, Messam said he was launching an exploratory committee for president of the U.S. “This country deserves a champion,” he tweeted, “not more excuses about why we can’t act on the urgent challenges of today and tomorrow. Change can’t wait.”

The son of Jamaican immigrants, Messam grew up in South Bay, western Palm Beach County, where his father was a laborer in the area sugar cane fields, according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel. He was starting wide receiver and member of Florida State University’s 1993 national championship football team. Messam owns a construction business.

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In 2011, Messam was elected to the Miramar City Commission and in 2015, he was elected as the first Black mayor, leading the city of 140,000 people. Miramar’s population is 47 percent Black and 36 percent Hispanic.  

Messam credits a football scholarship to Florida State University and time on the FSU football team with helping shape who he is today.

As mayor, Messam raised wages for city workers, sued the state of Florida for pre-empting municipal gun laws and helped residents through the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, FiveThirtyEight reported. One of his main policy proposals will be to forgive the $1.5 trillion in student debt,
campaign adviser Phillip Thompson said. He was part of a group that sued the state in 2018 over a law restricting his ability to create municipal gun regulations after he wanted a new amphitheater in Miramar to be a gun-free venue.

A CNN headline less than two weeks ago described Messam as “barely known” in Florida, and predicted he would be the “longest of longshots in the 2020 race.”

“Little known outside of South Florida, (Messam) has a small political operation and enters a field of more than a dozen Democratic candidates, many of whom have far larger profiles and fundraising bases,” CNN reported.

Messam told CNN he accepts those odds and is not afraid of the challenge to run for president as a relative unknown.

“When you look at what is going on in Washington, the status quo is who is stepping up to be our next president. … When you look at a mayor, Americans see mayors favorably. We are at the front line of what Americans are dealing with every day,” Messam said.

Messam won re-election this month to a second term as mayor of Miramar
with 86 percent of the vote. He immediately announced his interest in exploring a run for POTUS. He also visited the Middle East, including Jerusalem and the Palestinian West Bank city of Ramallah — a step toward a presidential candidacy, CNN reported.

Some of Messam’s advisors helped former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum run for governor in 2018. Messam will compete in every state, but he will try to make weekly trips to South Carolina, partly because the state’s electorate is predominately Black.

Messam aides said he will tap into the Caribbean-American community and deep-pocketed South Florida donors, who are among the most prolific Democratic fundraisers in the country.