With Florida considered one of the lynchpin states to any candidate's presidential bid, it stands to reason a native politician would become a fixture in the looming campaign season. Wouldn't you think? Most would expect that to mean a major politician with either name recognition, or an established history in the state would rise to the fore to leverage at least some influence.
Not Wayne Messam.
It may seem anywhere from odd to ridiculous that a lightly regarded mayor of a Florida city many in the state never heard of would aspire to the United States presidency, but not the 2020 general election. The Democratic Party has an ever-widening field of hopefuls (to date 19 have pledged, with Joe Biden’s announcement), so Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam is hardly an anomaly. He joins other municipal leaders Pete Buttigieg (South Bend, Ind.) and Julian Castro (former San Antonio, Texas mayor).
Messam faces a challenge that may be more than uphill; it may be a sheer face. He is lightly known even in the South Florida region, and even though notable among many FSU football fans from his wide-receiver days during the 1990s. Messam is currently looking to gain traction in the crowded lineup of hopefuls, with plans to begin touring New Hampshire and Iowa in the coming weeks to get established in the early primaries.
The businessman, however, is facing a number of challenges surrounding money, the lifeblood of any campaign. His fundraising, even at this early stage, is lagging significantly behind most in the field. Like many across the country, Messam had a difficult tax day this past Monday. His initial filing with the Federal Elections Commission placed him at the bottom among the candidates in fundraising. He showed he had an anemic (by comparison) $84,000, but then later that same day, he was forced to file a revised FEC report, showing his actual totals were half that amount.
Now word is coming out that his campaign workers may not be getting properly paid, and as a result, a fair number of staff are taking flight. It was just days ago that the Sun-Sentinel detailed a rundown of his campaign team, touting how many of the key players had connections to the Obamas, or with gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum’s campaign. But a report by the Miami New Times offers a less rosy scenario.
Citing a former staffer, who recently quit the campaign, notice went out April 15 that the workers would not be getting paid. Based on an email sent out, Messam’s wife was taking control of the campaign payroll and would not be issuing paychecks. As a result, an unsubstantiated number of staffers are said to have quit. When asked about the issue, Messam would only acknowledge there was some “miscommunication.”
The candidate mentioned he had retained a lawyer, and when reached, his counsel only seemed to back up the claims that the campaign was in disarray. “I think they’re trying to get some affirmation on who worked and who was hired,” said his representative. “I think that’s where there’s some miscommunication.”
More than just a temporary problem and bringing the workers back into the fold once the “miscommunications” are ironed out, there appears a bit of permanence to the departures. In a telling detail, the New Times looked into those workers who were listed as significant players from past campaigns. In combing through the social media accounts of those named, many had since removed any mention of working for the Messam campaign.
By all appearances, it is looking like Messam making the trips to New Hampshire and Iowa are a longer shot than they were previously.
Brad Slager, a Fort Lauderdale freelance writer, wrote this story exclusively for Sunshine State News. He writes on politics and the entertainment industry and his stories appear in such publications as RedState and The Federalist.