||This article needs to be updated. (August 2015)|
|Chairman & Leader of the
Rent Is Too Damn High Party
|Preceded by||Position established|
December 1, 1946 |
New Smyrna Beach, Florida, U.S.
|Political party||Rent Is Too Damn High Party|
|Residence||Flatbush, Brooklyn, New York City, NY|
James McMillan III (born December 1, 1946) is an American political activist, perennial candidate, karate expert, and Vietnam War veteran, as well as a former postal worker, stripper and private investigator from Brooklyn, New York.
McMillan is best known as the founder of the Rent Is Too Damn High Party, a New York-based political party. McMillan has run for office at least six times since 1993, most notably in the 2010 gubernatorial election. He declared in December 2010 that he would run in the 2012 U.S. presidential election as a Republican. He did not appear on the ballot in any state and suspended his campaign to return to the Rent Is Too Damn High Party and run for Mayor of New York City in the 2013 election. He attempted to run for Governor again in the 2014 election but he did not make the ballot.
McMillan announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for President of the United States in the 2016 election, but withdrew from the campaign on December 9, 2015 and announced that he was retiring from politics. He later endorsed Republican candidate Donald Trump, stating that "He's the only one who is supporting my brother veterans, which is good enough for me."
McMillan's first run for political office came in 1993, when he ran for Mayor of New York on the Rent Is Too Damn High ticket. In the course of that campaign, McMillan was at one point tied to a tree and doused with gasoline; he later climbed the Brooklyn Bridge and refused to come down from it unless television stations broadcast his message. He was disqualified from the ballot for coming 300 petition signatures short of the 7,500 needed to qualify for the general election ballot.
McMillan next ran for Governor of New York in 1994 by traveling from his home in Brooklyn through upstate New York to Buffalo on foot, staying in homeless shelters along the way; he had planned to walk back to Brooklyn, but an injury in Rochester led to him taking a bus home. When he arrived in Buffalo, the site of the state Democratic convention, McMillan disrupted a speech by incumbent Governor Mario Cuomo at the convention and was thrown out because of it. After failing to collect enough signatures to get onto the ballot, he continued in a write-in campaign.
McMillan qualified for the November general election ballot for Mayor of New York City in 2005 and 2009. In 2005, he received over 4,111 votes (0.32%) and in 2009, he received 2,332 votes (0.2%).
For the 2010 campaign, McMillan filed petitions to appear on the Democratic primary ballot and the Rent Is Too Damn High line. However, he put very little effort into the Democratic petitions, and the vast majority of the 13,350 signatures bearing his name were collected by Randy Credico, who had partnered with McMillan for a joint Democratic petition. Credico had counted on McMillan to collect 10,000 signatures to put his total at over 20,000, above the 15,000 required to get onto the ballot, but McMillan never followed through, leaving both candidates short of the necessary signatures to force a Democratic primary against state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who was thus unopposed. Credico, in response, called McMillan a "jack-off" and a "sorry ass", accusing him of "working against me", "turn[ing] in a wagonload of blank pages and then [leaving] Albany in brand new automobiles." McMillan did file the necessary signatures to get onto the "Rent Is 2 Damn High" line; the petitions were technically invalid because they did not include a lieutenant governor candidate, but McMillan was allowed onto the ballot anyway because nobody challenged the petitions.
During an appearance at a 2010 gubernatorial debate in which McMillan figured prominently, he stated his views on gay marriage, by saying "The Rent Is Too Damn High Party believes that if you want to marry a shoe, I'll marry you." After the debate, McMillan garnered significant attention from the media.
McMillan, perceived by many as a protest vote, garnered 41,129 votes (0.88%), enough to finish in fifth place out of seven, compared to winning Andrew Cuomo's 2.5 million votes and second-place Carl Paladino's 1.4 million votes. McMillan gained almost as many votes as Libertarian Party candidate Warren Redlich (48,359 votes), and nearly double the votes of Anti-Prohibition Party candidate Kristin M. Davis (20,421 votes).
Regarding his use of black gloves during the debate, "I'm a war vet," McMillan said. "Don't forget I was in Vietnam for two and half years and I have three Bronze Stars, but the chemicals of Agent Orange — dioxin and a lot of other chemicals mixed up — I would get sick. When I get home tonight, 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."
McMillan's gubernatorial campaign was the subject of an independent, feature-length documentary titled DAMN!. Filmmakers Aaron Fisher-Cohen and Kristian Almgren documented McMillan throughout his campaign for Governor of New York, as well as the events immediately following McMillan's loss of the election. The film was an official selection at the Little Rock Film Festival in Arkansas, as well as at the Brooklyn Film Festival, but did not officially premiere until August 2011.
McMillan was a registered member of the Democratic Party. Then, on December 23, 2010, he said that he would switch parties and run as a Republican in the 2012 U.S. presidential election, to avoid a primary challenge from President Barack Obama. He also campaigned with performance artist and activist Vermin Supreme and appeared as Supreme's presidential running mate in the 2014 documentary about Supreme's 2012 presidential campaign, Who Is Vermin Supreme? An Outsider Odyssey, directed by Steve Onderick. McMillan and Supreme made a pact, each agreeing to act as vice president for the other if either were elected. He believes that his greatest political strengths include a mastery of social media, an ability to pinch pennies, and inimitable political vision.
McMillan appeared at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February 2011. He also appeared at Northeastern University in March 2011, through the Political Science Student Association, where he discussed key issues. McMillan campaigned during the Occupy Wall Street protests, criticizing the protesters for voting for the wrong person but defending the protesters' right to protest. On November 15, 2011 McMillan held court on the 23rd floor of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority offices kibbitzing with his legal staff and media representatives. McMillan was the keynote speaker at Occupy Tenafly on May Day 2012. There, he told protesters that college tuition is also "too damn high".
He was not invited to any of the Republican debates and did not appear on any primary ballots. On September 13, 2012, McMillan suspended his candidacy to run for Mayor of New York City in the 2013 election, and endorsed President Barack Obama.
McMillan announced his fourth campaign for Mayor of New York City on September 13, 2012. On April 24, 2013, McMillan released a song and video called "Rent Is Too Damn High" on YouTube. In the song, McMillan raps about the problems of the American economy. In one part of the song, he says, "Rent and the deficit is too damn high. Poverty and unemployment both up in the sky. Wages and education is too damn low, economic recovery is too damn slow." McMillan's video received over 300,000 views in its two first days after being uploaded.
On May 22, 2014, McMillan announced his intentions to again run for Governor of New York. However, his petition to be on the ballot was challenged, and he was later thrown off the ballot by the state board of elections, which claimed his petition contained too many photocopied pages to meet the signature threshold.
McMillan's political positions are heavily drawn from populist principles. The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle described his 1994 platform as such: "While McMillan said he hopes to be a spokesman for the poor in his bid for Governor, his solutions make him sound more like a Republican."
Originally from New Smyrna Beach, Florida, McMillan is single and has two adult children; the elder child is a daughter (age 40 as of 2013) who McMillan claims developed disabilities as a result of his exposure to Agent Orange, and the younger is a son (James McMillan IV, age 34 as of 2013), who currently serves in the U.S. military. The elder McMillan served in the United States Army during the Vietnam War. After his time in Vietnam, he briefly spent time in the 1970s as an R&B recording artist; he claims to have spent a brief time at Brunswick Records before leaving the label to do independent work. McMillan graduated from Barkley Private Security Investigations Academy prior to 1993. McMillan has worked as a male stripper, has smoked marijuana in the past, and considers Deep Throat his favorite film.
According to an interview with the New York Times, McMillan does not currently pay rent on a Flatbush apartment he has claimed as his residence and he has not done so since the 1980s. His landlord apparently allows him to reside in his apartment for free in exchange for performing maintenance work on his apartment building. He had previously told the Wall Street Journal that he pays rent of $800 a month for his apartment, but told the New York Times that he definitely did not pay rent. He pays the rent for an apartment McMillan shares with his son in the East Village in Manhattan, which is $900 per month under current rent controls. The landlord of the East Village apartment is moving to evict McMillan on the grounds that McMillan lives in the Flatbush apartment and not in the East Village one; McMillan, who has held the East Village apartment lease since 1977, claims that the Flatbush apartment is not his residence but instead an office for the Rent Is Too Damn High Party.
McMillan was portrayed by Kenan Thompson on Saturday Night Live. Thompson kept saying "the rent is too damn high" to most of the questions mocking McMillan by making the joke that he only has one political view. He also referred to McMillan as a billy goat and "the black Lorax," and if elected McMillan would be the country's "last black President." McMillan praised the portrayal, saying that "that put me over the top... this election is over. Jimmy's gonna win it."