As Miami ramps up for the first of the presidential debates of the 2020 election cycle, the only Democratic candidate from South Florida, Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam, won't be on the stage, left out in what he believes is a process slated to candidates who already have money and name recognition.
Messam -- as well as Montana Governor Steve Bullock, Massachusetts Congressman Seth Moulton and former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel -- did not reach the 65,000 donors threshold or the 1% tally in three national polls to participate.
"Basically if you don't have millions of dollars, or if you don't have favorable media exposure, especially if you are a candidate like myself, as a local mayor moving from office, it basically shuts out the ability for mayors and other lesser known candidates to be able to build to a viable candidacy," Messam said.
Messam got two of the polls needed to participate in the debates, but not the third. Therefore, his positions on reforming the criminal justice system, tougher gun control, and taking global warming seriously have to be made stop by stop. "We are taking immediate action on climate change, improving and making our infrastructure more resilient while putting people to work," Messam said.
Messam also spent part of Tuesday in his city with students at the Florida Vocational Institute.
"Education is the key here in this country to open up opportunities," Messam said. Wiping out debt from student loans is a priority for him. "I was actually the first presidential candidate in this cycle to propose a plan to forgive the $1.5 trillion in outstanding student loan debt. It's impacting about 44 million Americans across the country," he said.
What would be his closing remarks if he had the chance?
"I am fighting to give the American people a second chance at the American dream that they see slipping away," he said. "They can't access health care—high cost prescription medicine—mass shootings and gun violence in our street, crippling student loan debt. I will be their champion."
While Messam won't be on the stage in downtown Miami, he's confident he will be part of the second Democratic debate in Detroit, Michigan at the end of July. He says he's very close to getting the third poll he needs to participate and thinks that will happen in several weeks.
"On that debate stage, when I qualify for that debate stage, I will speak truth to power," he said. " ... I'm here to challenge America. I'm here to challenge the American voters who say we know we are better as a country. The promise of America is better than what is being delivered to them today. That is what my candidacy represents."