A Florida mayor launched a long-shot campaign for president Thursday.
Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam has joined the crowded Democratic presidential primary field. He will hold an afternoon kickoff rally Saturday at the historically black college Florida Memorial University, where he is expected to detail his policy on student loan debt.
Messam served four years on Miramar’s city commission before becoming mayor, a largely ceremonial position there, in 2015. He beat 16-year incumbent Lori Cohen Moseley to become the sprawling suburban city’s first African-American mayor. Messam won reelection on March 12 and announced his presidential exploratory committee the following day.
Messam, who owns a construction company with his wife of 20 years, is largely unknown, even in Florida political circles. But he visited South Carolina over the weekend and traveled to Israel and the West Bank last week to meet with leaders on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The former Florida State University wide receiver said he is running “to be your champion.” Messam was a member of the Seminoles‘ 1993 national championship team coached by Bobby Bowden.
In a two-minute launch video titled “Your Champion,” Messam said that Washington is broken and he highlights prescription drug prices, climate change and student loan debt as “high-stake problems that we must deal with today.”
“I think these big issues need fresh eyes from someone who is closer to the American people on a daily basis,” Messam said in a statement. “With the support of everyday people, we can finally bring bold ideas back into the conversation, take action to avoid crises and plan for the future.”
The 44-year-old is joining one of the largest and most diverse primary fields. It includes a number of big-name Democrats such as Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, and Messam isn’t the only mayor.
South Bend (Ind.) Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro and former Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker, now a senator, are also in the 2020 field. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio is weighing a presidential bid as well.
Messam also recalled his family working hard to make a life in the United States. His parents came to the U.S. from Jamaica — his father was a contract sugar-cane cutter in South Florida, and his mother cooked for migrant workers. But today, that dream “is out of reach and fleeting for far too many in this country,” Messam said. “I’m passionate about the American dream because it is not a fictitious thing for me. It’s real for me.”
Messam is seen as someone launching a lose-to-win campaign to raise his name recognition with an eye on running statewide.