In the New York state governor's race, one candidate is telling the voters that he's fed up. With an ornate beard that looks straight from the 19th Century, Jimmy McMillan is telling voters that, "the rent is too damn high."
"People are working 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week, second and third jobs," says McMillan of the Rent is Too Damn High Party. "They can't afford to take care of the children, or feed their children breakfast, lunch and dinner. … My people can't afford to pay their rent. … Listen, some child's stomach just growled. Did you hear it? You gotta listen like me."
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McMillan, a decorated Vietnam combat veteran, was one of seven gubernatorial candidates who debated each other last night, including front runner Andrew Cuomo.
Meanwhile, his top rival, tea party-backed Republican Carl Paladino, sought to display a passion for the work he says career politicians like Cuomo have failed to do.
The 90-minute debate was punctuated with some jabs by the five minor party candidates.
Anti-Prohibition Party candidate Kirsten Davis, the former "Manhattan madam" who wrote a book and was jailed in a prostitution investigation of a ring she was said to operate, frequently compared prostitution with politics, often finding politics a worse profession.
She said politicians are the worst prostitutes in the state and added, "I may be the only person sitting on this stage with the right experience to deal with them."
Cuomo repeatedly criticized the government now run by his party and harkened to a time past when he said New York state government was considered a model for other states. He praised past leadership, although he didn't specifically note his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo.
Cuomo spoke in detail with confidence on every subject, appearing more composed than Paladino and playing to the crowd more than the other candidates at the Hofstra University debate.
"I know this state like nobody else on this stage," Cuomo said. "I understand the disgust with Albany, and I share it."
But, the former federal housing secretary added: "No state has anything on New York, and we're going to make this the Empire State again, don't make any mistake about that."
Paladino, a Buffalo developer, said state government doesn't need tweaking, but rather a major overhaul that scares career politicians like Cuomo.
"My critics want to say I'm crazy," Paladino said.
"No, I'm passionate," he said. He then ticked off his platform: cutting spending by 20 percent, cutting taxes by 10 percent, term limits of eight years for state officials, disclosure of all outside income to identify conflicts of interest and the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the Legislature.
"My plan scares them to death," Paladino said. "You tell me if I'm crazy."
In the only scheduled debate of the nasty campaign, neither Cuomo nor Paladino targeted the other, although some of the minor party candidates took shots at both.
Political scientist Doug Muzzio of Baruch College said the debate didn't change the race for any candidate.
"No winners, no home runs, triples, doubles," Muzzio said. "A couple of singles. No big errors. Nothing about the race changed."