Jimmy McMillan, the perennial candidate and activist who gained fame after his memorable appearance in the 2010 New York gubernatorial debates where he stole the show with his simple argument that the “rent is too damn high” is throwing his hat into next year’s mayoral election. Mr. McMillan announced his candidacy last night at a small concert in a bar on the Lower East Side.
“I am entering the race for mayor. I’m very upset at all the candidates running. No one has said anything about the people and they’re all thinking that what I did in 2010 in the gubernatorial debate was just a big bunch of talk. They’re all business as usual, rent going up and nobody tackling that matter,” Mr. McMillan told Politicker. “There’s some serious problems. Rent can be reduced, rent will be reduced and I’m bringing what I couldn’t bring and didn’t get an opportunity to bring to the State, I’m bringing to the city … knowing that I can do it here and it can have the domino effect throughout every city, town and county in America and all across the other parts of the world.”
Mr. McMillan decided to launch his mayoral campaign at the concert, which was held at Tammany Hall, a bar named for one of New York’s most infamous political machines, after meeting two of the women who were performing in the show at a Dunkin’ Donuts in the Lefferts Garden section of Brooklyn. Dion McKenzie and Erika Buestami, who perform as Kowabunga Tyga, said they instantly recognized Mr. McMillan.
“We met Jimmy McMillan at Dunkin’ Donuts when Jimmy was doing his thing, campaigning and the rent is too damn high,” Ms. McKenzie said pointing towards her bandmate. “She just went up to him like, ‘Hey Jimmy, What’s up.”
“We’re really glad that he’s going to be running for mayor in 2013 and, you know, we support him all the way,” said Ms. Buestami.
On stage at the bar, Mr. McMillan, who was wearing a vest adorned with two buttons featuring silhouettes of his trademark mutton chops, started his set with a few songs that seemed to fall somewhere between spoken word and rap.
“It’s just like that when you pay your rent,” he said, snapping his fingers to the beat. “It goes just like that.”
Eventually, Mr. McMillan picked up a guitar emblazoned with an American flag.
“This is my first love. I don’t want to play, I just want to hold her while I’m talking with you,” said Mr. McMillan. “The rent is too damn high. There’s nothing else to talk about. … I’m running for mayor of the City of New York in 2013. I’ve got your back do you have mine?”
At least one of the approximately thirty people in the audience appeared to know all the words to Mr. McMillan’s songs and mouthed along as he performed. Many in the crowd snapped pictures of him on their phones and he left the stage to thunderous applause.
Outside the show, Mr. McMillan explained that the key issue in his platform is, unsurprisingly, reducing rent.
“They’re talking about raising the minimum wage. They want to raise the minimum wage when the owner of the restaurant, of the store rent just went up. How could he pay? So, we’ve got some serious problems,” Mr. McMillan explained. “Ever since the attack on the World Trade Center rent has been rising and rising and rising.”
A group of men walked past Mr. McMillan on the street as he spoke. He attempted to bring them into the conversation.
“The rent is too damn high right?” he shouted.
Mr. McMillan didn’t get the desired response from the passerby.
“They dont speak English,” he told us.
Prior to announcing his mayoral bid on his Rent Is Too Damn High Party line, Mr. McMillan was running a presidential campaign as a Republican. Now that the Republican Party has selected Mitt Romney, Mr. McMillan said he will be voting for President Barack Obama, albeit reluctantly.
“Serious problems come with the President of the United States. President Barack Obama messed up. Republican Party had a chance to beat him. … But when the Republican Party decided to choose Mitt Romney, Mitt Romney said he don’t support the very poor. How can I support him?” Mr. McMillan asked. “So, even though Barack Obama don’t know what he’s doing, I have no choice but to vote for Barack Obama to keep the Republican Party out. They had a chance to get me, prime meat, number one in the country and they turned–didn’t even look my way because I don’t have the money that Mitt Romney has. And this is what the Republican Party is all about–money, millionaires. What about the people?”
Mr. McMillan has previously run for mayor in 1993, 2005 and 2009. Prior to his star turn in 2010, he ran for governor in 2006 and 1994. He also attempted to run for Senate in 2000. His 1993 mayoral campaign included him dousing himself with gasoline and climbing the Brooklyn Bridge. Needless to say, none of these bids were successful.
Clearly Mr. McMillan believes the rent is too high, but we asked whether there are other things in this world that he also believes are too high. Mr. McMillan’s response was characteristically emphatic.
“Everything,” he said. “Gasoline is too damn high, food prices is too damn high, food is too damn high. You go to a restaurant the cost is too damn high, because of the property taxes and the mortgages they have to pay.”
Since Mr. McMillan is clearly against overcharging, we wondered what he thought about the eight dollar cover charge for his Rent Is Too Damn High Party party.
“That is not high at all compared to fifteen dollars you have to pay other places. Are you kidding? That’s like a movie. Even the movie prices are too damn high, when they’re charging eight to twelve dollars just to get into a movie,” said Mr. McMillan. “My job now is to come and change the attitude and, right now, people love us. As you can see, they love the ‘Rent is Too Damn High’ guy and they know what I’m here to do–no nonsense.”
Mr. McMillan came and went from his campaign launch in a special customized car. Watch a video of him showing off his “Rent Is Too Damn High-mobile” below.