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New York guv debate star Jimmy McMillan: 'This fame is for them'

Jimmy McMillan during a 2010 gubernatorial debate.

Jimmy McMillan during a 2010 gubernatorial debate. Photo Credit: Getty

The gloves are off for Jimmy McMillan — but maybe not literally.

The Rent is 2 Damn High candidate for governor has become an overnight sensation thanks to his eccentric performance at Monday night’s debate at Hofstra University.

He and his party were top Google trends Tuesday, and Facebook and Twitter erupted with fans vowing to vote for him. Tweets called him “genius” and “a superstar.”

McMillan, 64, of Brooklyn, told amNewYork on Tuesday he’s being flooded by interview requests (including from Oprah and Don Imus), campaign donations (his coffers totaled just $26 before the debate), and endorsements (apparently from Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, which amNewYork couldn’t confirm by presstime).

In a rambling interview, McMillan also talked about his life struggles: working as a stripper to support his disabled daughter, being forced at gunpoint to drink his own urine during the Vietnam War and turning to martial arts to combat posttraumatic stress disorder.

So how does he feel about his new celebrity status?

“That’s a good question because when I came home from Vietnam, they spit on me,” he said. “I try not to think about what I’m going through right now, because the little children that didn’t eat breakfast this morning, this is for them. The mother who’s pregnant, who can’t afford prenatal care, this is for all the folks that I’m doing this. So there’s no time for me to rejoice or be happy about anything. This fame is for them.”

At Monday’s debate, McMillan, sporting a heavy handlebar mustache and gloves, easily outshined major party hopefuls Andrew Cuomo and Carl Paladino with gems like “As a karate expert, I will not talk about anyone here” and “The Rent is 2 Damn High Party feels if you want to marry a shoe, I’ll marry you.”

He also ranted a mile-a-minute about hunger in NYC and repeated his “rent is too damn high” platform like a mantra.

Experts said Tuesday, however, that his popularity is fleeting. It will take a "search expedition" to find McMillan's obscure party on the ballot Nov. 2, said political consultant Hank Sheinkopf.

“He’s an interesting character, he’s charismatic, he’s unusual and people will agree with him that rent is too damn high,” Sheinkopf said. “He was the most exciting thing about the debate, and he’ll be a pop-culture hero for the next 15 minutes.”


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