Broward County

South Florida mayor forming exploratory committee for long-shot presidential campaign

Wayne Messam, mayor of Miramar, speaks before the 100 Black Men program started at the Frank C. Martin Middle School on March 3. He spoke about “BOLD” — Blessed, Obligated, Leadership, and Dare to be great.
Wayne Messam, mayor of Miramar, speaks before the 100 Black Men program started at the Frank C. Martin Middle School on March 3. He spoke about “BOLD” — Blessed, Obligated, Leadership, and Dare to be great. wmichot@miamiherald.com

Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam announced Wednesday that he’s forming an exploratory committee to help gauge whether to launch an unlikely presidential bid.

The Democratic mayor, who on Tuesday easily won another four years as the ceremonial executive of the middle-sized southwest Broward city, has been mulling a campaign for months. He said in an interview that he plans to make a decision on a presidential campaign soon.

“I’ll be exploring the opportunity to seek the presidency and making a decision by the end of the month,” he said.

Messam, 44, has already established support in several primary states and arranged a visit to South Carolina, according to an adviser. He is paying special attention to the state, where he campaigned in 2016 for Hillary Clinton and plans to visit again on March 23.

If he runs, Messam would enter a crowded and formidable field as a long shot. An early benchmark for campaign success would be the first Democratic debate in June, which will only feature candidates who either garner at least 1 percent in three different polls or nail down 65,000 donors with a minimum of 200 donors in at least 20 states.

The little-known Messam hopes a message based around a background as a self-made small-business owner and his years as a former Florida State University scholarship wide receiver will help him break through. He also hopes his accomplishments in Miramar — a city of 144,000 — will give him the kind of platform that just reportedly helped South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg raise $600,000 in 24 hours following a CNN town hall.

Since Messam became mayor in 2015, the city has passed laws to pay its employees a living wage, sued the state of Florida to challenge a statute that keeps cities from passing laws restricting guns, and fought against a permit for a company to drill for oil in the nearby Everglades. He says the city has also been able to lure a number of Fortune 500 companies.

“We think we bring a unique perspective as a mayor of a major city in a state like Florida that is going to be pivotal” in the Democratic primaries, he said.

Messam recently sought guidance from the state to ask whether he’d need to resign in order to qualify to run for president under Florida’s resign-to-run law, but has not heard back yet.

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