The mayor of a south Florida city announced Wednesday he was launching an exploratory committee for president — the latest Democrat to signal interest in challenging President Donald Trump for the White House.
Wayne Messam, mayor of Miramar, a South Florida city near Miami, is an unknown figure in the Democratic party and likely to face a tough battle against the more than a dozen Democrats — many of whom are well established political entities and prominent figures recognized around the country.
“Washington is not working for the American people, and these big issues need fresh eyes and bold ideas from someone closer to the people, so our voice can be heard,” Messam said. “Together, we can fundamentally change our country for the better and tackle these challenges with actions that match the scale and urgency of this moment.”
Messam is a first-generation American, according to his biography page on the city’s website. His parents immigrated from Jamaica and moved to Florida, where he was born.
Messam said in his announcement on Wednesday that he learned the value of hard work from his parents, especially his father who he says was a migrant worker who tended to sugar cane fields for decades. Messam says he found a path to success working hard in school and getting a football scholarship to Florida State University, where he played as a wide receiver.
Before politics, Messam started a construction company. In 2011, he was elected to the Miramar City Commission. And in 2015, he was elected as the city’s first black mayor, leading the city of 140,000 people.
But despite his accomplishments in Miramar, Messam is relatively unknown in Florida and around the nation. The battle for the Democratic nomination already includes big names in Congress such as Senators Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren. There’s also speculation former Vice President Joe Biden and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, could enter the race.
Messam acknowledged his odds in an interview with CNN on Tuesday but added it could be an advantage not being a Washington insider.
“I see it to be a unique opportunity for Americans to look at another option of leadership,” he told CNN. “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.”
In his announcement, Messam said he would fight hard for a progressive agenda that includes tackling gun-control laws, climate change, healthcare costs and student loan debt.
“Far too many of our friends and neighbors feel left behind and deserve someone in their corner who will fight for them,” he said. “This moment requires leadership that will set us on a path to put the American Dream within reach for every single person in this country.”