Who is Jimmy McMillan?

Featured, History & Politics

If you can win a debate on buzz alone, Jimmy McMillan of the Rent Is Too Damn High Party was the undisputed victor in Monday night’s New York gubernatorial debate at Hofstra University

Sporting a throwback mustache and beard – and wearing black gloves – his repeated refrain of “rent is too damn high” won over the audience, and sent curious New Yorkers flocking to the Internet Tuesday morning.

His named popped all over Twitter, and his own website, rentistoodamnhigh.org, crashed at points during the morning.

McMillan said he “appreciated the love” – and was gratified he stole the show.

“The mustache and the Rent Is Too Damn High is what got me here,” he quipped.

One thing most New Yorkers wanted to know: Who is Jimmy McMillan?

He’s a 64-year old retired postal worker from Flatbush, Brooklyn.

He served in Vietnam, and he cited his service as the reason he wore gloves on stage for the debate.

“The chemicals of agent orange – dioxin and a lot of other chemicals mixed up – I would get sick,” he explained after the debate with Andrew Cuomo, Carl Paladino and four other minor-party candidates.

“I know I’m not going to be able to breathe if I take them off. It could be psychological, I don’t know, but I just put ‘em on and wear them anyway,” he added.

This isn’t McMillan’s first foray into politics. He ran for mayor in the city in 2005, but pulled in less than 1% of the vote.

He was criticized for blaming soaring rents on Jewish landlords.

In Monday night’s debate, McMillan touted lower rents as the cure for the state’s economic ills.

“It all boils down to one thing, rent, it’s too damn high,” he said.

Not everyone was wowed by McMillan’s large personality on the debate stage, with some critics contending he added to the circus-like atmosphere.

“Pity the poor people of New York,” wrote the Daily Beast’s Tunku Varadarajan. “Can there ever have been a state so rich, so abundantly endowed with talent and enterprise, to have had a political choice so abject, so meager, so embarrassing?”

McMillan appeared alongside six of his competitors, displaying notable facial hair as well as black gloves. Throughout the forum, the candidate rattled off soundbites that are still reverberating Tuesday.

“Listen! Someone’s … child’s stomach just growled! Did you hear it?” he shouted in his opening statement, before being cut off by the moderators and eliciting laughter from the audience.

You can watch a clip of his appearance here, courtesy of ABC News:

McMillan has long been a fringe fixture in New York politics, running for mayor of New York City in 2005 and 2009. During the 2005 campaign he ran under the moniker “Prince Jimmy McMillan (a.k.a. Papa Smurf),” theVillage Voice reported at the time. In 2000 he tried to qualify to run against Hillary Clinton for Senate but was bounced from the ballot, the newspaper said; in 1994, he walked across the state in a bid for the

Democratic-gubernatorial nomination, but was kicked out of the state convention for heckling former Gov. Mario Cuomo. And in a 1993 run at the New York City mayorship, McMillan scaled a cable on the Brooklyn Bridge, the paper said (police coaxed him down, and he was hospitalized).

So Monday night’s debate marked McMillan’s debut before a mainstream political audience. There’s no doubt he made the most of it, with his fiery opening remarks and his striking appearance. He was hard to miss on the crowded seven-candidate stage, sporting a grandiloquent array of gray facial hair and a pair of horn-rimmed glasses.

You can watch a clip of his appearance here, at ABC News:

3 Comments on "Who is Jimmy McMillan?"

  1. John Calvin Byrd III Oct 21, 2010 · 8:06 am

    He’s my hero!

  2. Mr Obinna Oct 21, 2010 · 11:19 pm

    I’m still trying to figure out what the point of him mentioning he was a Karate expert

    • Max Nov 30, 2010 · 10:11 pm

      Dude, it’s just his job. It’s like him saying “it’s not my job as a karate expert to talk about anyone here. I’m no politician. I’m not playing that game” That’s what he actually does/did, he just doesn’t know or care about how it sounds.

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