Papa Smurf Runs for Mayor


Campaigns send reporters lots of stuff: schedules, releases, reports, soundbites, et cetera. But Audrey Silk’s quixotic campaign for mayor scored a first by sending out cigarette lighters this week labeled “End Prohibition . . . Smoke Bloomberg in ’05.” The Voice profiled Silk—a Libertarian and smoking ban opponent— and other lesser-known mayoral hopefuls back in July. Not all of them made it on to the November 8 ballot, but there indeed will be choices other than Ferrer and Bloomberg, like Conservative Tom Ognibene, Tony Gronowicz from the Greens, Seth Blum of the newly formed Education Party, and Martin Koppel for the Socialist Workers. Kevin Finnegan is currently listed as a candidate for the Working Families Party, but he’s been nominated for a judicial post and will be removed, leaving the WFP slot empty. The party recently decided to endorse Ferrer but not award him the ballot line.

Then there’s Jimmy McMillan—or as he dubs himself, Prince Jimmy McMillan (a.k.a. Papa Smurf)—of the Rent is To Damn High party. According to his website (where one can hear the song “Rent is Too Damn High”) McMillan is calling for a an 8- to 12-year rent freeze and a $550 cap on rent, claiming the Rent Guidelines Board is illegal, and hoping to enlist 25 million volunteers. If that sounds like an uphill battle, McMillan’s used to them. In 2000 he tried to run against Hillary for the Democratic nomination for Senate but was bounced from the ballot. In 1994 he ran for governor, traveled much of the state on foot, and was expelled from the state convention after he heckled Mario Cuomo. He ran for New York City mayor once before, in 1993, and it was an eventful candidacy: In June he was found at the side of the Belt Parkway tied to a tree, blindfolded, and doused with gasoline; in October he climbed a cable on the Brooklyn Bridge, was coaxed down by police, and then hospitalized.

Those were just the latest adventures in a life that took McMillan from Vietnam, to a job as a letter carrier, and finally to being an actor, rent activist, Karate expert, and “Independent Private Investigator.” Along the way McMillan says he has penned six books (A Vet for Life, Rent is too Damn High, The “Name” Negro Discovered, Murdered by the VA, The Road Less Traveled, and Standing in Line at the VA), worked as a bodyguard to Yankee Mel Hall, and composed a 1975 song titled “A Woman is Hard to Understand (1975).” You can buy his latest album on the website; it includes the songs “Rent is too Damn High,” “Eviction Notice,” “Water Dripping from my lights,” “The Landlord and I,” and “No I Didn’t.”