Meet Wayne Messam, America’s Newest Presidential Candidate

Wayne Messam, the son of Jamaican immigrants and the first Black mayor of the city of Miramar, Florida, has joined the race for the White House in 2020. Messam, 44, announced his presidential bid on March 28 via Twitter. “The American Dream my parents sought when they came from Jamaica with just a 5th-grade education is fleeting. Together, we can put the American Dream back within reach for all #ChangeCantWait,” his message read, alongside a two-minute video.

“My father was a contract sugar cane cutter. Very hard, intense labor with machetes to cut the sugar cane in the hot sun in South Florida,” Messam said in the footage. “I’m passionate about the American Dream because it’s not a fictitious thing for me.” The presidential hopeful also described his background as a college football player for Florida State University in the 1990s, and the construction business he started with his wife.

Messam is currently serving his second term as Miramar mayor, after defeating 16-year incumbent Lori Cohen Moseley in 2015. Prior to becoming mayor, Messam worked as Miramar’s city commissioner. He has boasted about some accomplishments during his tenure in that role, including the passage of a living wage for city workers and a relief on water bills for federal workers. Messam also joined mayors across the US in support of the Paris Agreement — the 2015 deal that seeks to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions — and has opposed the Trump administration’s draconian immigration policies by proposing his city as a safe zone for those “seeking a better life.”

During a March 31 speech, Messam laid out parts of his blueprint for the presidency, including relief for some Americans struggling to pay back hefty student loans. “The cost of a college degree has skyrocketed out of control,” he said. “It’s a crisis … as president I will push for national student loan forgiveness.”

Messam added that his priority as president would be to reduce gun-related deaths by 50 percent in his first term, The Sun Sentinel reported, citing shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, and the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

A Democrat, Messam now joins a diverse pool of candidates for president that include California Senator Kamala Harris, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.), former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro, and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Peter Buttigieg. Messam will have to face other heavyweights such as Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), former Texas Representative Beto O’Rourke, and possibly former Vice President Joe Biden.

In order to participate in debates, Messam has to reach a 1 percent threshold in national polling or early primary states, or rake in contributions from 65,000 different donors, with almost 200 of them in nearly 20 states, The Sun Sentinel wrote. He hopes to be part of the Democratic presidential debates slated to begin in Miami in late June. As a result, some wonder whether Messam will have a good shot at becoming the next Democratic presidential hopeful in 2020.

“If Messam is still hanging in, a respectable vote in Florida could give him not only a share of the state’s delegates — Democrats award theirs proportionately, rather than by winner-take-all — but make him influential on the national stage,” an op-ed published in the Sentinel on Monday noted. “There’s no shortage of other Democrats eager to take on Donald Trump. But who knows how it will play out?”


About the Author

Robert Valencia is the breaking news editor for The North Star. His work as editor and reporter appeared on Newsweek, World Politics Review, Mic.com, Public Radio International, and The Miami Herald, among other outlets. He’s a frequent commentator on foreign affairs and US politics on Al Jazeera English, CNN en Español, Univision, Telemundo, Voice of America, C-SPAN, Sirius XM and other media outlets across Latin America and the Caribbean.