Gay Republican mulls presidential bid

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter
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Fred Karger is here, he’s queer, and he just might run for president in 2012 as a Republican.

Karger would be the first-ever openly gay presidential candidate in the history of the United States. That’s something one would imagine would mostly likely come from the more socially liberal Democratic Party, but that’s not the case here. Karger is proud of his work with President Ronald Reagan’s 1980 and 1984 election campaigns – photographs of the Gipper covered the walls of his hotel suite in the Washington, D.C., Marriott Wardman Park last weekend.

The Marriott Wardman Park was home to the American Conservative Union’s 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), an annual gathering of top Republicans and conservatives and a pep rally of sorts for attendees. Karger wasn’t invited to speak, and he wasn’t even allowed to have a booth to display his materials or his platform. He decided to take the rebellious route to get his message out there to CPAC attendees, though, and booked a hotel suite to throw a party as a platform to spread his fiscally conservative message.

Karger attracts the libertarian-type students that Rep. Ron Paul, Texas Republican, is known for getting on board with his message. Several showed up at Karger’s Friday night unofficial CPAC party.

Melba Morris-Page, a student from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, attending CPAC with Paul’s Campaign for Liberty, told TheDC she likes Karger’s views.

“I got to meet him about 10 minutes ago, and he’s very kind and I like what he has to say,” Morris-Page said. “He seems like he’s in it to win it, and I hope he gives it a shot.”

Karger never got a response from a letter he wrote to American Conservative Union Chairman David Keene asking why he wasn’t allowed to have a booth at CPAC, a speaking opportunity or a place in the presidential straw poll.

“I have been actively involved in Republican politics for over three decades, and have worked on nine Republican Presidential campaigns including senior consulting roles for Presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Gerald Ford,” Karger wrote to Keene. “Additionally, I have managed dozens of local, state and federal elections.”

Karger doesn’t have any proof of it, but he suspects the reason why he wasn’t allowed an official spot at CPAC is because he’s openly gay. For CPAC to allow gay conservative group GOProud in was one thing, but to let an openly gay potential Republican presidential candidate would’ve been too much, he suspects.

“I would be the first openly gay candidate to ever run for president of the United States,” Karger told TheDC. “I think it sends a very strong message to younger people. When I started my gay activism just two and a half years ago, because I was in the closet up until that point, and when I came out on the Prop 8 stuff and started boycotting companies that were donating money, I said it then, in my very first interview, ‘I want to do this so it’s easier for young people.’”

Karger considers himself an “independent Republican,” and told TheDC he’s more “transpartisan” than bipartisan.

“There’s a term called transpartisan – it’s stronger than bipartisan,” Karger said. “I’m truly in the middle. I was a Hillary Clinton supporter four years ago, a maxed-out donor to her and I supported Gov. John Lynch for re-election, who’s a Democrat in New Hampshire, but I also supported Republican Bill Binnie in the Senate race.”

Like Paul, Karger calls for an immediate end to the wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan. But, Karger does think the military should fight terrorism – and thinks the military brass should look into better ways to do so.

“We need to modernize our military to fight terrorism,” Karger said. “The world is a very different place now and the United States, I don’t think, should be imperialistic and going into countries. We need to protect our interests but getting involved in this quagmire in Afghanistan is a terrible move.”

Karger is focused on reforming the education system in the United States – he’s avidly anti-teachers’ unions. He points to California’s public charter schools, which he says are “flourishing,” because they’re able to skate around the American Teachers Association and the National Education Association.

“We need to make school hours longer each day. America has about 180 days of school each year, the rest of the industrialized world is about 220 and some go a lot higher,” Karger said. “In China, they start at 3 years old. If we’re going to compete, and we’re going to have an economy and hope for our generation and for many to come, we’re going to have to compete and we’re going to have to completely reform school and, though I’ll be getting into more specifics on that later, I believe the unions are a huge problem.”

Karger is realistic about his chances, saying the if he enters the race he will do so to be a voice of “moderation.”

“I’m probably not going to win,” he said. “I’m in this for a variety of reasons. I want to be a voice of moderation in the Republican Party and there really is none in this so far.”