“I don’t know about the next election, but I think in the near future,” said former President Jimmy Carter recently when asked about the possibility of America electing a gay president. Carter argued that because the country voted for an African-American president two years ago before coming close to nominating the first woman candidate, the country could be open to a gay one.
Carter may be on to something because in 2012, America might just have its first serious openly-gay candidate for president. And he’s a Republican.
Meet Fred Karger, a California-based political consultant and activist who lists Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Gerald Ford among his clients.
Now for the first time, Karger is the candidate. “I’ve never run for office before,” he told The Daily Caller. “Not for student council or anything.” Still, Karger seems to know what he’s doing. Last April he announced plans for a presidential exploratory committee, and in recent months, he’s been traveling tirelessly all across the country, with extended stays in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Born and raised in a suburb of Chicago, Ill., called Glencoe (a town made famous by Tom Cruise and the movie “Risky Business”), Karger described his childhood as being a “carbon copy” of the television show “Leave it to Beaver.”
“That was me,” he told TheDC. “All the way down to the identical refrigerator, the two-story house, the stay-at-home mom, the dad who worked and the cool older brother.” Unlike the show’s namesake, however, Karger’s interest in politics began at the young age of 14 when he volunteered to work on statewide campaigns.
That is where, according to Karger, he thrived. After “figuring out the gay thing pretty young,” Karger had a hard time fitting in anywhere else besides a campaign’s headquarters. A career in politics followed, interrupted only by a brief career as an actor in Hollywood in the mid-1970s.
More recently, Karger stepped into California’s Prop 8 battle over the legalization of gay marriage. He led a charge against the Mormon Church’s involvement, uncovering the extent to which the church financially supported the Prop 8 campaign. As a result, the church had to pay a$5,000 fine.
Now that the 2012 presidential election season is within sights, Karger is doing everything any candidate would. There are only two problems, one of which is summed up best by his campaign slogan of “Fred Who?”; the other being that he is running on an issue most Republicans either shy away from or openly oppose.
Karger swears by his solid Republican credentials, telling TheDC that his “DNA is Republican,” although just a “little more moderate.” The moderate part probably explains why, in 2008, he maxed out his legal campaign contributions to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, and why he voted for Ralph Nader in the general election.
“I just thought she [Clinton] would be good — a good fit. And, the Republican Party had just gone so far right that I wasn’t happy with the candidates then,” said Karger.
Aside from his gay rights’ platform, that is is likely what Karger hopes will set him apart from his likely challengers in 2012. In a year when most Republicans will be running to the right and denouncing big government, big taxes and the Obama agenda, Karger plans to plant himself firmly in the middle, supporting the legalization of medical marijuana and sensible gun control regulations. He’s even taken up the label “Independent Republican.”
“I am an independent individual,” Karger said. “I’ve supported Republicans and Democrats. My positions are more independent from the party, but I want to get a message to those voters in New Hampshire and Iowa who are independent — registered independent — that I think we’re similar.”
“This is a new term,” he added. “Scott Brown did it a little bit in Massachusetts this year, but I want to take that title because I think it fits me perfectly.”
Karger told TheDC that he considers it a badge of honor and “a good thing” that some of the members of the Republican National Committee in Iowa attacked him during a recent visit.
“The public is so unhappy with all of this partisanship — bickering is too mild of a word for it — and they’re looking for a Ronald Reagan type who can bring people together. He used to have Tip O’Neil over to the White House …Obama didn’t invite Mitch McConnell over for one-on-one until 18 months into his presidency,” said Karger.
It’s clear the self-identified “frustrated issue candidate” thinks he can follow in Reagan’s footsteps, but it’s also clear he knows he has a lot of convincing to do in order to win Republican and Independent support.
So when will he officially announce a presidential bid? Karger wouldn’t give an exact date, but if he is planning to participate in any of the presidential debates it will have to be within the next few months. The first debate is scheduled for early May at the Reagan Library.
The American people may or may not be ready for a gay president, but they may not have a choice when it comes to having a gay candidate. That said, Karger’s mere presence in the 2012 Republican arena means the issue of gay rights isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.