In a move that signals how seriously Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam is about seeking the 2020 presidential nomination, he is seeking formal guidance from the Florida Division of Elections about a key state law.
In a letter to the Elections Division obtained by the South Florida Sun Sentinel, one of the state’s most prominent election lawyers is seeking an advisory opinion on Messam’s behalf about the state law that requires elected officials to resign from their current offices when they qualify as candidates for different offices.
Mark Herron, the attorney, stated in the letter that he was making the request “on behalf of Wayne Messam, who is contemplating becoming a candidate for the office of president of the United States.”
Besides making the legal inquiry, Messam has spoken recently with activists, potential donors, former athletes and elected officials. He recently spoke with the chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party.
South Carolina is significant because it’s one of the earliest states in the presidential nominating process and it’s the first primary state with a significant black population. In 2016, 61 percent of the state’s Democratic primary voters were black.
Messam was a frequent representative on the campaign trail for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016, and was one of the earliest South Florida supporters of Andrew Gillum’s 2018 gubernatorial campaign.
Miramar is Florida’s 13th largest city, with 150,000 residents.
As a relative unknown from a South Florida city, Messam would face daunting odds as a presidential candidate. A dozen Democrats — many with high political profiles — are already seeking the party’s presidential nomination, and that doesn’t count prominent additional possible candidates, such as former Vice President Joe Biden. One other young mayor, Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., is also among those running.
Messam, 44, has flouted conventional political wisdom before. After one term on the Miramar City Commission, he challenged — and defeated — four-term incumbent Mayor Lori Moseley in 2015.
He is up for reelection in the March 12 city election.
In the letter to the Division of Elections, Messam’s attorney is seeking clarification of the Florida resign-to-run law.
The law requires a Florida elected official who qualifies as a candidate for federal public office to resign from the current office if the terms of office of either of the two positions overlap. The resignation must be submitted at least 10 days before the first day of qualifying for the office the candidate intends to seek.
The issue, according to the request for clarification, is that unlike offices such as U.S. Senate or U.S. House of Representatives, which have a set period under federal law in which candidates “qualify” to run, candidates for president “do not qualify for federal office” in the way described in Florida law.
Specifically, Herron’s letter asks the Elections Division if Messam must, “as a candidate for the office of president of the United states, resign from his office as the mayor of Miramar?”
If the answer is “yes,” then Herron wants to know what the state considers the “first day of qualifying” for the office of president. That information would be used “in order to permit him to submit an irrevocable resignation in compliance with” Florida law.
Messam, a general contractor, and his wife Angela have three children.
His parents emigrated to the U.S. from Jamaica and Messam was raised in South Bay, in rural Palm Beach County, where his father was a laborer in the region’s sugar cane fields.
His got involved in politics at an early age. He was senior class president at Glades Central High School and was student body vice president at Florida State University.
He’s better known to some for his non-political achievements. Messam was a starting wide receiver and member of Florida State University’s 1993 national championship football team, coached by Bobby Bowden and was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in 1997.
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