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Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam Holds First Rally Of Run For President

Wayne Messam
Sam Turken
Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam on Saturday held the first rally of his recently-announced bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam held on Saturday the first rally of his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, emphasizing his aim to restore the American Dream and arguing that his mayorship makes him especially ready for the presidency.

Standing onstage before more than 300 people at Florida Memorial University, Messam touted his background as the son of two Jamaican immigrants and said addressing climate change, eliminating student loan debt and reducing gun violence will be among his top priorities as president.

I’m “too morally disturbed by the state of our nation" to sit idle,  he said as a large banner reading “WAYNE for America” and the hashtag “Change Can’t Wait” hung in the background. “As your president, I will champion change and opportunity for all people.”

Messam, a former Florida State University starting wide receiver who launched his campaign on Thursday, joins a crowded field of 15 other candidates for the Democratic nomination. The 44-year-old said he expects to face questions about his qualifications as the mayor of the 13th largest city in Florida. But touting his success leading Miramar, he said “2020 could be the year of the mayor.”

Since becoming Miramar’s municipal executive in 2015, Messam has challenged the National Rifle Association when he tried to make the new city amphitheater a gun-free zone. He’s also made Miramar a safe-zone on immigration.

On the environment, he has fought oil drilling in the Everglades and criticized the Trump administration for withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord. His construction business is also dedicated to energy efficient green projects.

Messam promised on Saturday to make addressing climate change and gun control his greatest priorities if elected. He cited past shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Pulse Nightclub in Orlando and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport as evidence that Washington “has not done anything to address this gun violence issue.”

“It’s time to stop playing games with American lives,” he said.

Messam also vowed to eliminate student loan debt that prevents college graduates from achieving financial success. Not everyone is “6-foot-4 and runs like a gazelle” and can earn a football scholarship, he said referring to himself.

He pledged to provide full relief to Americans struggling with debt by canceling the tax cuts passed in 2017 under the Trump administration. The strategy, he said, would provide $1.5 trillion to cover student loans.

“It is morally wrong for this country to require our citizens to take on tens of thousands of dollars to achieve the American Dream,” he said. “It’s a crisis.”

Messam discussed other issues like improving the nation’s infrastructure, rebuilding ties with American allies across the world and guaranteeing jobs for people as automation spreads.

It remains unclear whether a mayor of a small city of about 142,000 people can overcome long odds and become a viable candidate for the Democratic nomination.

Another mayor who’s running, Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., was initially thought to be an afterthought in a field of much better-known hopefuls. But his progressive politics and national TV appearances have helped him build a large online following, attract large, enthusiastic crowds at campaign rallies and rise to fifth among Democratic candidates in a Quinnipiac University poll.

Messam appears to be taking an approach similar to that of Buttigieg. He acknowledges that he’s a long-shot candidate, but says being a mayor connects him to ordinary voters and can make him more prepared for the presidency than other bigger name candidates who are in Congress.

“The solutions aren’t coming from Washington,” he told WLRN in an interview after the rally. “A mayor actually works to get things done…and has a sense of urgency to deal with the important issues like gun violence.”

Messam traveled to South Carolina and the Middle East earlier this month as part of his 2020 exploration. He now plans to return to South Carolina and visit Nevada next month.

In order to join the 2020 Democratic presidential debate, Messam needs to poll at 1 percent in three national polling or in early primary states, or receive donations from 65,000 different donors, with at least 200 of them from 20 different states.

His campaign sees success in South Carolina as instrumental to making the debates given the state’s high minority Democratic electorate. His story as a first-generation American could also be attractive for Nevada’s large immigrant population, the campaign has said.

On Saturday, attendees said he could indeed become a formidable candidate and embraced his message.

Hear more about what attendees at the rally said about Messam.

Clarence Reynolds, who lives in Coral Springs, said Messam brings “fresh air” to the race. Reynolds is currently helping his son pay off student loans and praised Messam’s loan forgiveness plan.

“He understands the needs of the people, the needs of the immigrants, the needs of the poor,” Reynolds said.

Angela Mumford added that she's already witnessed Messam's leadership. As a Miramar resident, she praised him for creating jobs and fighting against a proposed oil drilling project in the Everglades near the city. 

"The weight of what he's doing already currently in the city of Miramar—that's going to do a lot," she said. "People are going to be able to see what he has done." 

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