He’s running: South Florida mayor announces 2020 campaign in new video

MIAMI — South Florida Mayor Wayne Messam announced that he’s running for president Thursday by releasing what may be the most meta campaign video of the young 2020 presidential cycle.

Messam, the 44-year-old mayor of Miramar, dropped a two-minute biographical video intended to introduce the former Florida State Seminole wide receiver to the country. It begins with a wide-angle shot of Messam — an avid runner who grew up the son of a contract sugar cane cutter in a rural Lake Okeechobee town — running on a road along a cane field.

“The promise of America belongs to all of us,” Messam says. “That’s why I’m going to be running for president.”

Produced by Seven Knots — the firm that cut astronaut Mark Kelly’s Arizona U.S. Senate launch announcement — the video lays out Messam’s back-story as a small-business owner and the suburban mayor of a southwest Broward city of about 140,000. It hits his main campaign messages: that “Washington is broken,” and that Messam’s first-generation Jamaican-American story is the epitome of the “American Dream.”

Messam, who after months of consideration announced the formation of an exploratory committee two weeks ago, released the video ahead of a formal campaign announcement Saturday at Florida Memorial University.

— Miami Herald

Ben Ray Lujan to announce New Mexico Senate run Monday

WASHINGTON — Democratic Rep. Ben Ray Lujan plans to run for the Senate in New Mexico, and is set to officially announce his candidacy Monday, according to two sources familiar with the congressman’s decision.

The seat is open after Democratic Sen. Tom Udall announced Monday he would not seek re-election.

Lujan, the assistant House Speaker and former chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, will be a formidable candidate. But he also isn’t likely to have the field to himself.

State Attorney General Hector Balderas looks poised to enter the race on Thursday. Rep. Deb Haaland and Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver are mentioned as potential candidates as well.

— CQ-Roll Call

Did a Georgia House prayer violate the Constitution?

ATLANTA — Georgia lawmakers are used to fire-and-brimstone preachers at the start of each day’s legislative session. But a particularly scorching prayer prompted one legislator to question whether it violated the separation of church and state.

The House chaplain of the day, Doyle Kelley, was fraught with emotion throughout his 10-minute prayer on Tuesday. It was the one-year anniversary of his heart attack. And he was overcome with pride at his son, state Rep. Trey Kelley, a Cedartown Republican who introduced him. Much like other opening prayers, Kelley quoted from the Bible and invoked Jesus Christ. But it was near the end of his sermon when he ventured into searing territory:

“The command is there: Do all in the name of Jesus Christ. People always ask me, ‘Why are there so many lost people in the state of Georgia?’

“The statistics came out that there’s 70 percent of the people in the state of Georgia that are lost. That are lost. Seventy percent. There are over 10 million people in the state of Georgia. That means there are 7 million people lost.

“Now you want to hear it in Baptist terms: Seven million people that are lost are dying and on their way to Hell. That’s what that means.”

It’s not clear what survey he’s referring to, but Democratic state Rep. Josh McLaurin said he believed the preacher was citing a poll on abortion. He wrote a letter to House Speaker David Ralston’s legal counsel seeking the office’s policies. He said he wanted to “ensure that legislative prayer in our chamber is always consistent with the First Amendment.”

The Supreme Court in 2014 ruled that legislative bodies can begin their meetings with prayer — even if that prayer favors a specific religion.

But the 5-4 ruling also said if a prayer would go too far if “the course and practice over time” shows the prayers “denigrate nonbelievers or religious minorities, threaten damnation or preach conversion.” Ralston’s office declined to comment, as did Trey Kelley. McLaurin, a Yale-trained attorney who won a Sandy Springs-based district in November, said he had little choice but to take action.

— Journal-Constitution

Theresa May gambles on last-ditch vote to avoid long Brexit delay

LONDON — Theresa May is making a desperate push to get her Brexit deal approved in Parliament to avoid a huge delay to Britain’s divorce from the EU, even though she’s facing what seem to be impossible odds.

British members of Parliament, who have twice rejected May’s deal, will be asked to approve the Withdrawal Agreement in a vote Friday, said House Leader Andrea Leadsom.

But the British prime minister has so far failed to win over enough of her allies to support the deal. If May can’t get her deal through Friday, the EU says Britain will have to choose between leaving with no deal on April 12 and a long delay that would require it to take part in European Parliament elections.

May has tried everything, including promising to quit, but has still not convinced all her own Conservative Party colleagues or the 10 members of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party that prop up her minority government.

“We can all agree we don’t want to be in the situation of asking for another extension and facing the potential requirement of participating in European Parliament elections,” Leadsom told the House Thursday.

All week, May’s government has said it will only bring back her deal for a third vote if it thinks it will win. Her plan to bring it back last week was also thrown off course by House Speaker John Bercow, who invoked a 400-year-old tradition to rule that May couldn’t bring the same deal back for another vote.

To get around that, May’s vote on Friday will hold back the part of the package that focuses on future trade and security relationship, known as the Political Declaration. Friday’s motion would at least meet the requirements of the EU, while giving Parliament space to work out a way forward, Leadsom said.

— Bloomberg News