City of Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam has launched his campaign to become the next president of the United States.
Messam joins 17 announced Democratic hopefuls who want the nomination for the 2020 election. He is the first candidate from Florida to put his name into the race.
The South Florida Media Network spoke with Messam over the phone to get insight to why a mayor is running for the highest office in the nation and whether he believes he has what it takes to beat bigger names in the race. Here’s an edited version of the interview.
South Florida Media Network: Why run for president? Running a town of 160,000 people is really different than governing one of the strongest nations out there, so what makes you eligible to be president?
Mayor Wayne Messam: Well, I’m running for president because (I’m the) son of immigrant parents from Jamaica who came to this country to chase the American dream. My father was a contract sugarcane cutter to make money to support his family doing very hard work, hard labor in the hot sun of South Florida, doing work that locals would not do. He came to this country with my mother, who actually was a cook/domestic worker; They taught me the value of hard work, that I can achieve this American dream and I’m living this American dream.
Washington is not solving these pressing issues that the Americans are dealing with. We’ve sued the state of Florida (over) gun violence and gun control because right now in the state of Florida, mayors cannot even discuss gun control in our cities. So we sued the state of Florida so we can be in a position to have those discussions. These issues are too important for Washington to not (be) solving the pressing issues of today and were not even planning for these crises we see coming on the horizon. That is why I’m running, so that the American people can have a chance at the American dream, the same American dream that attracted my parents to this country.
SFMN: Why didn’t you just start with being a governor and then a senator, and if given the Senate position, then run for president? Why didn’t you go in that order? Is it because, from what you’ve been hearing, that mayors get the job done?
Messam: The people are looking for change in Washington, and besides I’ll throw the question back: Who made these rules? Who made these rules that you have to step through all these other elected positions to have to run for president? What is being discussed right now, Americans are working two or three jobs just to make end meet so I know what it is to solve these problems. We talk about the gun violence that is going across our country, (and) I’m doing something about gun violence right now, in my city. It’s no different than doing this across the country; It’s about having the desire and political will to address these pressing issues head-on and these answers aren’t being filled in Washington. I think the American people can see, or can identify with, mayors because we are on the front line and what I’m doing, by casting my candidacy, is bringing a fresh view and a fresh look at these pressing issues that’s not going to come from Washington. With the American people, they have an option to decide if this is the kind of leadership they want to see.
SFMN: Another small-town mayor, Pete Buttigieg, is also running for president and he’s been gaining a lot of attention over these past few weeks. How do you feel about your odds against him and then against the bigger names?
Messam: I’m convinced that once I get my fair share of media exposure, I will be able to contrast myself against all the candidates. I think what you see with Mayor Pete is that it just underscores my earlier point that American people resonate with mayors and when they see (a) mayor getting the job done they’re attracted to that type of leadership. It [Miramar] has also been culturally diverse, much more than South Bend in Indiana, so (I’m) a mayor who has basically done and beat the odds of what everyone said couldn’t be done. God knows, no one thought that I would beat a 16-year incumbent to become mayor … Miramar’s first black mayor. I was told all of those things. Why now, why now? And my answer every time is because change can’t wait. We have to step up to address these issues and I’m confident that once the American people hear my story, see the value and the issues I’m advocating for, that I’m there (to) champion on the issues that are not being solved in Washington right now, I know that we will be in the position where we can be a credible option for the American people.
SFMN: Kamala Harris and Bernie Sander already have a platform of policies they will enact if they became the next president. What is your policy?
Messam: I just released on Saturday [March 31] during my launch my plan to complete outstanding student loan debt forgiveness. There’s $1.5 trillion in outstanding student loan debt that’s going on right now, that is owed by Americans right now. My plan will forgive that outstanding student loan debt; there’s over 44 million Americans right now that actually owe this money … So it’s just as serious (an) issue and it is the second largest consumer debt, second only to housing. (There’s) even more outstanding than credit card debt by $500 million, so you can see the gravity of these crises.
SNMN: What will make you stand out against the top candidates in the Democratic party like Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, and Bernie Sanders?
Messam: What will make me stand out are the ideas and issues that I’m fighting for, that the American people are asking for. The American people want to have access to health care. The American people want to get out of the crippling student loan debts. … I can speak to my specific examples, specific experiences of what I’ve done, to sue the state of Florida to keep our city safe, to talk about how I’m fighting to stop oil drilling right outside of Miramar. I can talk to my student loan debt forgiveness plan that I have released to be able to clear up American resources so they can invest in buying their first home, they can make ends meet. […] You can throw out a plan, you can throw out a proposal, but (speaking) to what you’ve actually done, is actually mode credible. That me as a mayor, who can be able to do this in my city, can speak to those specific examples and I’m sure that the American people have an appreciation for that; they know. Think about 2020, it just may very well be the year for the mayor.