It was on 18 October, 2010 that the voters of New York witnessed one of the most memorable televised Gubernatorial debates ever. In an unusual turn, the debate featured not only the nominees of the Republican and Democratic parties, but a variety of candidates from minor parties as well, including one Jimmy McMillan of the ‘Rent is too Damn High Party’.
McMillan was a Vietnam Vet who caught the attention of the viewers thanks to his distinctive mustache and the black gloves he wore during the debate, which he said were related to a chemical weapons injury he sustained during the war. The thing that really captivated viewers was McMillans one note message. His opening statement, while passionate, seemed conventional enough.
He then proceeded to deliver with considerable gusto, what would be the most memorable tagline of the evening, that “the rent is too damn high”. McMillan repeated the phrase often enough as an answer to almost every question, that the moderators began to shake their heads and the audience started to repeat the phrase back to the candidate and finishing his sentences for him when he would address an issue and then pose the query – “Why?” only to hear shouted back from the audience,
“the rent is too damn high!”
To make the scene even more unusual, McMillan was seated on the stage next to Andrew Cuomo, the eventual victor in the race, who at one point chuckled and said, “the rent is too damn high Jimmy”.
The media had a field day and the coverage went global. The ‘Christian Science Monitor’ said he “stole the show”, clips of the debate, and McMillans often repeated plea regarding New York rent went viral, and led to a parody on NBC’s ‘Saturday Night Live’.