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Little-known Florida mayor becomes the latest Democrat vying to take on Trump in 2020

Key Points
  • Wayne Messam, the little-known mayor of Miramar, Florida, launches a long-shot bid for president, becoming the latest contender in a crowded field of Democrats vowing to take on President Donald Trump in 2020.
  • In a video announcing his candidacy, Messam vows to fix a "broken" political system in Washington, D.C.
  • The path to the Democratic nomination will not be easy for the Florida mayor, who faces a primary field of high-profile contenders including Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Rep. Beto O'Rourke.
Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam.
Brynn Anderson | AP Photo

Wayne Messam, the little-known mayor of Miramar, Florida, launched a long-shot bid for president Thursday morning, becoming the latest contender in a crowded field of Democrats vowing to take on President Donald Trump in 2020.

In a video announcing his candidacy, Messam vowed to fix a "broken" political system in Washington, D.C.

His campaign is looking to tackle:

  • Gun safety, noting the "gun violence epidemic continues to take far too many lives." Last year, a deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killed 17 people. Parkland and Miramar are less than 2 hours apart.
  • Climate change, which "damages more homes and devastates more communities each year." Messam joined hundreds of mayors in the U.S. to stand against Trump's decision to ditch the Paris Agreement, which seeks to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions around the world. A spokeswoman for Messam's campaign said he would "absolutely" be interested in re-entering the U.S. in the Paris Agreement if he were elected president.
  • Health-care costs, which "cut off many Americans from the possibility of their American Dream."
  • Student loan debt, which his campaign says affects people of all ages and leaves them with "little hope for the future."

"The problem in America as I see it is that we are not addressing these high-stakes problems that we must deal with today," Messam said.

The 44-year-old has served two terms as mayor of Miramar, one of the nation's fastest-growing economies. He is the first African-American to be elected mayor of the city. He owns a construction business with his wife, Angela, and played football at Florida State University.

He's not the only mayor vying for the nomination. Pete Buttigieg, who is rising in the polls after being featured in a CNN town hall, is in his eighth and final year as mayor of South Bend, Indiana. South Bend has a population of about 102,000 people, compared with Miramar's population of 140,000. At 37, Buttigieg is the youngest presidential candidate in the race.

Other candidates who once served as mayor include Sen. Cory Booker, former mayor of Newark, New Jersey, and Julian Castro, former secretary of Housing and Urban Development, who was mayor of San Antonio, Texas.

The path to the Democratic nomination will be anything but easy for the Florida mayor, who is up against more than a dozen contenders. Leading the pack in polls is former Vice President Joe Biden, who has yet to announce whether he will even run for president. Biden has 29 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., trails Biden with 19 percent. Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke of Texas and Sen. Kamala Harris of California follow with 12 and 8 percent, respectively. Others in the hunt include Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

Messam's spokeswoman said his role as mayor and his Jamaican roots will help him stand out from the other candidates.

The son of Jamaican immigrants who have no more than a fifth-grade education, Messam has understood the value of hard work and community since he was born, his spokeswoman said, which is why "2020 can be the year of the mayor."

"Mayors in particular are obviously closest to the communities they represent," she said, adding that Messam aims to put the American Dream back within reach for many American citizens who find the concept fleeting. "That message, that lane of transformational change, isn't going to come out of Washington, and that will help us stand out."